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Full text of "Home environment factors influencing literacy development: a group of Brazilian immigrant Head Start children: a dissertation"

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Lesley University, Sherrill Library 



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FOR REFERENCE 

Do Not Take From This Room 



Home Environment Factors Influencing Literacy Development: 

A group of Brazilian Immigrant 

Head Start Children 



A Dissertation 



submitted by 



Sharon C. Switzer 



In partial fulfillment of the requirements 

for the degree 

Doctor of Philosophy 



Lesley University 

February 27 

2003 



DISSERTATION APPROVAL FORM 

Student's Name: SH/iJ?ON C. S \aJ I T^Z. C /^ 

j^iT-^r^f^dS O^^^i-oFN^Ajrf A (^^oor of 

Dissertation Title: 

School: Lesley University, School of Education 

Degree for which Dissertation is submitted: Ph. D. Degree in Educational Studies 



Approvals 



In the judgment of the following signatories, this Dissertation meets the academic 
standards that have been established for the Doctor oi Philosophy degree. 



Dissertation Committee Chair 




(signature}^ (date) 

Dissertation Committee Member ^Oi/J.rr, \dl/j^M.^\t- '^\'=^^ld 3 

(signature) (date) 

Dissertation Committee Member /v/ nuP^ ^ QlTlW I 

(signature) (date) 

Director of the Ph. D. Program JJ^mJ^ C Ucui.{ 'HI^J ClS 

(signature) (date) 

Dean, School of Education ^//^^.j;r:^^jW^/^ & ^ "^l^ips 

(signature) ^ (Sate) 



LESLEY UNTVERSIT^i', Ph.D. PROGRAM IN EDUCATIONAL STUDIES DISSERTATION HANDBOOK, 2001-2002 16 



ABSTRACT 

This dissertation examines the literacy practices embedded in the home 

environment of a group of 5 Brazilian Head Start children. It elucidates the difficulties 
and challenges of immigration that influenced their home environments and describes the 
literacy practices embedded within these home envirormients. In this qualitative study 
approximately 60 home visits were conducted to observe the focal children in their daily 
home environment. Following protocols used by Teale (1986) and Purcell-Gates (1996), 
observed literacy events were coded for social domain, participant structure, and literacy 
event type. Because Portuguese was the home language of these children, these literacy 
events were also coded for language used, i.e. Portuguese, English, or Bilingual 
(Portuguese and English combined). Data derived from observations of literacy events 
revealed that the greatest frequency of literacy events occurred in the domain, 
entertainment; and the greatest frequency of participant structure of literacy events was 
the focal child alone. It was also observed that both the level of English proficiency of 
the participants, as well as their length of time in the United States were related to the 
frequency of literacy events in the home. Portuguese language interviews conducted 
revealed themes centered on lack of access to resources of the mainstream culture, 
feelings of loneliness and vulnerability due to their limited English proficiency; and 
confusion about the U. S. mainstream culture and mores. Implications emphasize the 
need for care to avoid bias and assumptions regarding Brazilian immigrants; the need for 
support services, English language classes, native language books. While this research 
focuses on a group of Portuguese speaking Brazilian immigrants there may be 
implications for other immigrant populations as well. 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 

CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION 6 

Preface 6 

INTRODUCTION AND PROBLEM STATEMENT 9 

Statement OF THE RESEARCH QUESTIONS 10 

Purpose OF THE STUDY 11 

Limitations and delimitations 12 

Summary 14 

CHAPTER II: LITERATURE REVIEW 15 

The Contextual Nature of Language and Literacy Development 15 

Introduction 15 

Cultural Identity as Context for Literacy 17 

Influence of Context on Learning, Development, and Language Acquisition 19 

Summary 22 

Language/Literacy Development OF Young Children 23 

Introduction 23 

Theory and Research in Language Acquisition 25 

Language as Precursor to Literacy 28 

Emergence of Literacy 34 

Summary 40 

Home Influences Relating to Children's Literacy Development 41 

Introduction 41 

In-home Practices Affecting Literacy Development of Children 41 

Parent-child relationship and literacy development 42 

Frequency of literacy events 44 

Summary 47 

Summary OF Relevant Literature 48 

CHAPTER III: THE CHALLENGE 50 

When Dominant AND Nondominant Cultures Interface 50 

Success Beyond School 53 

Literacy Begins at Home 56 

Supporting Literacy in Families 58 

Summary 62 

CHAPTER IV: METHODS AND PROCEDURES 66 

Introduction 66 

Stance OF THE Researcher 69 

Ph.D. Student 70 

Head Start Research Scholar 71 

Participant Observer 73 



Translator and interpreter 73 

Cultural broker 74 

Providing assistance to others in the Brazilian community 75 

Facilitator for assistance with basic needs 75 

Networker to Martha's Vineyard community 75 

Facilitator for assistance with housing 76 

Island shuffler 77 

Preparation FOR Research 78 

Relocated to Martha's Vineyard 78 

Head Start Contact 79 

Meeting with Head Start Staff. 80 

Head Start Field Trip - Fire Station 82 

Project Recruitment 83 

Data Collection AND Analysis 84 

In-Home Observations 85 

Literacy Events 88 

Participant Structure 96 

Language Usage 100 

English Language Proficiency of Focal Children and Parents 102 

Participant Interviews 104 

Summary 110 

CHAPTER V: DESCRIPTION OF CONTEXT AND PARTICIPANTS 1 12 

Introduction 112 

Martha's Vineyard Cultural and Historic Background 1 13 

Brazilian Cultural and Historic Background 116 

Brazilian timeline THIS pageFamily Portraits 125 

Family Portraits 126 

Augusto's family 126 

Janaina's family 137 

Maria's family 145 

Tatiane's family 154 

Rosa's family 165 

Summary 175 

CHAPTER VI: LEARNINGS FROM INTERVIEWS 176 

Introduction 176 

Why they LEFT -- LIFE IS DIFFICULT in Brazil 176 

Jobs, WORK AND employment 182 

Life IS BETTER in America 185 

Brazilian Families - CLOSE BUT extended 188 

Challenges of immigration 190 

All alone IN A STRANGE place 196 

Changes - ALL I SEE ARE CHANGES 199 

Brazilian Children adjusting to America 205 

A Hunger for Home - Saudade for Brazil 210 

Head Start Support 213 



The CHALLENGE OF LIMITED English PROFICIENCY 219 

Learning English 221 

Education AND LITERACY 224 

Summary 229 

CHAPTER VII: IN-HOME OBSERVATIONS 231 

Introduction 231 

Observed Print Items 232 

Literacy Events 237 

Domains of Literacy Events 241 

Language usage BY domain 251 

Analyses by Major Social Variables 257 

Participant Structure 261 

English language proficiency 270 

Parental education 272 

Length of time in United States 273 

Summary and Reflections 275 

CHAPTER VIII: IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE AND FURTHER RESEARCH 280 

Assumptions AND Bias 281 

Need FOR English LANGUAGE development 282 

Books IN the home 283 

Social and emotional supports 284 

Areas FOR Future Research 287 

BIBLIOGRAPHY 291 

APPENDIX B: CONSENT FORM, ENGLISH 328 

APPENDIX C: CONSENT FORM, PORTUGUESE 330 



Chapter I: Introduction 

Preface 

The first time I saw Brazil, I was a young wife and mother, on leave from my 

teaching career, and awaiting the arrival of my second child. Brought up in a suburb of a 
large Midwestern city, I had been surrounded by a community of sameness. Sameness in 
our white skin, sameness in our food experiences (we were almost all descendants of 
German immigrants), sameness in our middle classness, and even sameness in religion 
with my parochial school classmates. We all lived in two-bedroom houses, which all of 
our clever parents managed to convert to three as the second, third, and sometimes fourth 
child arrived. As I grew into adulthood in the midst of this sameness, I began to hunger 
to experience the differences in the world that I had read about. I toyed with the idea of 
becoming a missionary partly out of my desire to experience life in another world, to 
learn another language, to visit other places, and to see the world from a different vantage 
point than I had ever known. 

All of these latent desires had led me, along with my husband, to move our family 
to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As I descended the stairs of the airplane onto the tarmac that 
first day, I was filled with excitement. I had prepared for months for this move, reading 
every book and article I could about Brazil. With my years of studying Latin and French 
in school, I foolishly believed that the tapes and books I had been using would have me 
speaking Portuguese by the time I arrived in Brazil. What an awakening I had. Here I 
was, achieving what seemed the dream of a lifetime, and as I went through Brazilian 
Customs at the airport, 1 had no idea what people were saying to me. Amazingly, when I 
spoke the words and phrases I had memorized so well, the customs officials responded as 



if they could understand me perfectly well, but I could not understand one word that 
anyone spoke to me. 

That first day in Brazil took me from the height of anticipation to the depth of 
horror at my own ineptitude. That was the beginning of a life-changing event for me. I 
had suddenly been thrust into a world in which I was like a child learning to speak. And 
yet, because this was a fialfillment of a dream, I was determined not to seek refuge in the 
American enclave in Brazil, where I could use my twenty-three years of experimenting 
with words to express my every thought, idea, and feeling in the most perfect way that a 
lover of the English language could. Instead, I chose the humbling experience of trying 
to express myself through my limited Portuguese vocabulary; and I acquired a new 
reverence for gestures, intonation, facial expressions, and plain old pointing, to say what I 
needed to say. 

Eventually, I learned to speak and understand Portuguese very well. And 
although my three years of Portuguese study and daily usage in Brazil could not compare 
with my twenty-three years of English study and daily usage, which I continued in my 
home while in Brazil, my ability to communicate gave me access to many of the benefits 
and pleasures of life in Brazil. 

After returning to the U.S. to live, I continued to cherish my memories of Brazil. 
My home was filled with mementos, artwork, musical instruments, clothing, samba 
records, slides and photos, and cookbooks from Brazil. These souvenirs from my life 
there allowed me to continue to savor the delicacies of Brazilian life, while living in the 
United States. I developed a new career in the field of early childhood education which 
allowed me to parallel my professional interests with the development of my own 



children. First, as a family day care provider I concurrently obtained a Master's degree in 
that field. After this I spent several years working in preschool settings, first as a teacher 
and then as a program director. I found ready opportunities to incorporate my memories 
of Brazil and introduce cultural awareness into the early childhood and elementary school 
setting, by introducing activities, slide shows, cuisine, music, and samba dancing into the 
mainstream curriculum. 

Over the years, I sought out Brazilians so I could speak in Portuguese again, and I 
continued to write letters to friends there. My family even hosted a Brazilian exchange 
student once. But Brazil was changing, and by the early '90's, there was already a 
growing population of Brazilians in the Boston area where I lived, ft was at this time that 
I began to work with Brazilian immigrants, offering outreach services, home visits, 
English as a second language instruction, and family literacy programs. 

At the same time, as I continued my work and studies in early childhood and 
family support programs, I saw the need for greater understanding of what happens when 
immigrant families from other cultures and speaking other languages bring their young 
children to America to live. Thus, it was this convergence of a lifetime of experiences as 
a teacher, as a mother, and as a lover of Brazil that led me to choose to investigate the 
ways that the home lives of five Brazilian immigrant families might influence the literacy 
development of the young children in those families. This dissertation will document and 
describe that research, and what I learned from it. 



Introduction and Problem Statement 

An increasing body of evidence has accumulated over the past two decades 
documenting the influence of the home envirormient in helping children to acquire the 
skills necessary for learning to read and write. This evidence supports the notion that the 
beginning of children's literacy and language development occurs through oral language 
interactions with the adults around them (Bissex, 1980; Chall and Snow, 1982; Heath, 
1983; Scollon & ScoUon, 1981; Taylor; 1983; Taylor & Dorsey-Gaines, 1988). 

For example, parents, in playing and talking with their children, provide valuable 
language and pre-literacy experiences for them (Butler and Clay, 1987; Dickinson, 1994; 
Larrick, 1982; Morrow, 1993). Researchers have also found that children who have had 
abundant opportunities to use language were better readers when they were in school than 
children who lacked such experiences. Typical situations which supported reading and 
language development included having several siblings, having frequent contact with 
many members of an extended family, and being included in family outings with parents 
or other adults (Chall and Snow, 1982). Hildebrand and Bader (1992) found that, in 
addition to playing and talking to their children, parental activities specifically related to 
print, such as those involving letter- and shape-recognition, as well as family excursions 
to the library, were correlated with higher literacy measures. Apparently the presence of 
conversational partners who can model the conventions of spoken language as well as a 
diversity of occasions that stimulate linguistic interactions are significant to literacy 
development. 

These research findings have been based on studies conducted with children who 
were exposed to only one language, that of the mainstream culture. Purcell-Gates and a 



10 

team of six research assistants conducted a series of in-home observations of literacy 
practices in twenty famihes over a one-year period (1996). Only low-SES participants 
who spoke English in the home as a first language were included in the study. At present 
it is not known whether those findings can be applied to children from homes in which 
the primary language and culture differs from the mainstream. It is also unknown what 
other factors, such as those related to the immigration experience and adaptation to 
American culture may have on the developing language and literacy of those children. 

Using comparable data-collection and coding techniques as Purcell-Gates, 
through in-home observations, I examined the instances of literacy events occurring in a 
group of five Brazilian immigrant families with children enrolled in a home-based Head 
Start program on a small island off the coast on New England. In addition to these 
observations, I interviewed the parents in these families, to learn more about their 
experience of immigrating to the U.S. and how they perceived these experiences may 
have affected their children's development. 

Statement of the research questions 

The goal of my research, therefore, was to document and describe the 
communicative practices in the homes of a group of low-income Brazilian ESL (English 
as a second language) families who are immigrants to the United States and who have 
young children enrolled in a home-based Head Start program in a rural island 



'Home-based Head Start programs, as opposed to Center-based Head Start programs, deliver services to 
families during Home Visits with families and regularly scheduled group activities and parent meetings 
throughout the year. Home-visits consist of story reading to the Head Start child, by the parent or by the 
Home visitor with the parent present, as well as a related art or craft activity to encourage Home visitor- 
parent-child discussion. Group activities may include field trips with parents and children to community 
landmarks, e.g. fire station, police station, etc. 



11 



community in Massachusetts. Two central research questions framed the data collection 
and analysis for this study: (1) What are the in-home communicative practices of this 
group of Brazilian immigrant Head Start families? And (2) What cultural and socio- 
economic factors might influence these communicative practices? 



Purpose of the study 

The purpose of my study has been to learn about the literacy-related activities 
observed in their homes and to come to a better understanding of what other factors may 
influence the language and literacy development of this group of immigrant children. In 
so doing I have attempted to extend the research of Teale (1994) and Purcell-Gates 
(1996) who studied the uses of print in the homes of low-income English speaking 
families with children. The research participants in my study, as Head Start participants, 
were also low-income. However, there were three major differences in my study: (1) 
None of the families in this study spoke English as their first language, and in some 
cases, they did not speak English at all. (2) While Teale (1994) and Purcell-Gates (1996) 
focused on the uses of print in the home, my study examined other communicative 
practices, such as dramatic play, conversations, television, and music as well. (3) Purcell- 
Gates, et al, based their research solely on in-home observations. In my research, I also 
conducted semi-structured interviews with the parents in order to gain some 
understanding of their view of the literacy development of their children. 

The ultimate goal of this study has been to develop insights related to teaching 
young children from low-income, limited English proficient, immigrant families. This 



12 



has included exploring the socio-cultural-economic challenges and barriers in their lives 
as well as how their literacy-related experiences at home might influence the methods of 
supporting the literacy development of these children, both at home and at school. 



Limitations and delimitations 

There were limitations of this study due to 1) the voluntary nature of the subjects; 
2) that my observations recorded the home factors relating to the communicative 
practices of participants, but were not videotaped; and 3) limitations due to self-reporting 
by participants during the interviews. 

First, since participants were volunteers in a study related to their children's 
development, they might be more interested and more likely to value and support their 
children's' language and literacy development than those families who did not elect to 
participate. It cannot be assumed that these families reflect the experiences of other 
Brazilian immigrant families or that the results of this research can be generalized to a 
larger population. 

Second, although I conducted a total of approximately 60 home visits during a 
six-month period in which I was present for 1 -2 hours per visit, this represents a small 
amount of time, selected by the parents, in which I was allowed into their homes. These 
observations may or may not reflect the typical daily routine which takes place regularly 
in the homes. 

Third, the information obtained through the parent interviews was reported by the 
parents themselves. While I guaranteed confidentiality, and maintained an accepting and 



13 

nonjudgmental demeanor as much as possible during these interviews, it must be 
remembered that they are seeing their Hves through their own perceptions within the 
cultural context of their own experiences. There is also the possibility that the informants 
wanted to impress me or that their recollections of events was faulty. It is unknown to 
what extent such information represents the true beliefs and attitudes of the participants. 

In addition the focus and scope of this study was delimited by the fact that it was 
restricted to Brazilian Head Start families on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, a 
tourist resort in the summer and an isolated rural community during the non-tourist 
season. People who choose to live year-round in this area face unique challenges related 
to a shortage of affordable housing and seasonal work. It is unknown to what extent 
these Head Start families, who are participants in a home-based Head Start program 
reflect Brazilian Head Start families from center-based programs, off-island (the local 
term used to refer to the mainland) from Brazilians in home-based Head Start programs 
in urban and non-resort localities, or families not associated with Head Start or other 
organized preschool programs. Some, but not all of the participants, also attended 
private preschools, either part or fiill-time. Thus the amount of exposure to teachers and 
other children from the U.S. mainstream culture differed from child to child. 

Nevertheless, I immersed myself in the lives of these families for a period of six 
months. During this time 1 conducted approximately 60 home visits for between one and 
two hours each, a total of approximately 90 hours of observations. I lived in the 
community in which they lived during this period so that I could experience island life, 
with its pitfalls and delights, just as they did. During the course of the research I became 
a friend of these families, and our relationship continues to this day. 



14 



Summary 

In summary, the purpose of my study has been to document the home and 
environmental influences relating to the language and literacy development of a group of 
Brazilian immigrant children from a Head Start Program on Martha's Vineyard in 
Massachusetts. 

In the following sections, I will provide a review of the literature pertinent to this 
study, a detailed discussion of the methods and procedures used, and a detailed summary 
of learnings from this research. In the final chapter I will summarize the implications of 
the findings in this research, as well as discuss implications for future research. 



15 



Chapter II: Literature Review 

As stated in Chapter 1 , the purpose of this research study has been to document 
and describe the communicative practices in the homes of a group of low-income 
Brazilian ESL Head Start children, and to explore the cultural and socio-economic factors 
that may influence these communicative practices. In this chapter I will provide a review 
of the literature that informed this study in order to relate that literature to my research. I 
have divided the literature review into three discussions concerning literacy development 
(1) the contextual nature of language and literacy development, (2) language/literacy 
development of young children, and (3) the home and environmental influences relating 
to children's literacy development. 



The Contextual Nature of Language and Literacy Development 

Introduction 

Language and the skills associated with its symbolic representation in print, 
literacy, grow and develop out of a context that includes culture, history and socio- 
economic influences. Paulo Freire emphasized the critical connection between language 
and the socio-cultural and historical context in which communication takes place. "The 
language that we use to talk about this or that and the way we give testimony are, 
nevertheless, influenced by the social, cultural, and historical conditions of the context in 
which we speak and testify" (Freire, P. 1998, p. 58). Language influences and constitutes 
the spoken context of communication, even as the context of conmiunication, including 
its social, cultural, historic, and economic aspects, influences language. It is this critical 



16 

connection between oral language or its printed expression and the context in which they 
take place that is the foundation for the belief that language and literacy, indeed, all 
learning arises from, and is dependent on, the context. It is for this reason that my study 
of the literacy practices of a group of Head Start Brazilian children examines the home 
context, as well as the cultural, historical, and socioeconomic background of the families 
in which they live. 

What does literacy mean? It is more than decoding and answering comprehension 
questions. Recent literature sets it in a larger sphere. Street defines the concept of literacy 
practices as both the behaviors and the understanding associated with reading and 
writing. Literacy events, defined as occasions in which literacy is an integral part, are any 
incidents in which literacy practices take place (Street, 1987; Street, 1997; Barton, 1998). 
However, Grillo uses the term communicative practices to define the "social activities 
through which language or communication is produced" (Grillo, 1989, p. 15.). Grillo, 
then, views literacy as one type of communicative practice within a larger social context, 
de-emphasizing both reading and writing (together or separately) as the sole indicators of 
literacy. It is clear that recent trends in research have focused on understanding the 
broader context in which literacy develops. 

Although some of the efforts have focused on writing alone, there has also been 
research which examined writing in the context of everyday usage (Heath, 1982). 
Anthropological methods focusing on "naturalistic" studies of writing have included 
techniques such as ethnography, taking life histories, and participant observations 
(Camitta, 1997), situating the learning of writing squarely in the arena of everyday needs 
and usages of writing. 



17 

Cultural Identity as Context for Literacy 

The context in which literacy occurs has gained importance in our understanding 
of literacy's relationship to social, economic, and cultural influences. Context has now 
become a central component in the area of linguistic analysis (Street, 1997), and the need 
to study literacy practices in this light has also been gaining credibility, decreasing the 
traditional emphasis on the separation of oral and print-related modes of communication. 

Oral communicative skills are generally considered the foundation for literacy 
development, and they develop within the context of the home in which they arise. 
Culture embodies the beliefs, assumptions, attitudes, biases, behaviors, and differences 
between groups of people (Holdaway, 1979). Because we are so dependent upon others 
for our survival in our infancies, our ideas, thoughts, and values are shaped by the culture 
of those with whom we live. We are "cultural beings" by nature (Ferdman, 1990). Our 
behaviors, our values, and our traditions reflect those of the community in which we live. 
The literacy practices embodied in cultural practices are disseminated from generation to 
generation. This is what defines our culture. 

In the United States, where there are many cultures, we must recognize that 
literacy and literacy acquisition differ from one community to another (Purcell-Gates, 
1995). Researchers of family literacy (Taylor, 1983; Teale, 1986) document that language 
and literacy practices are transmitted from generation to generation within the cultural 
context of each family (Akroyd, 1995). To me, literacy is connected to print which, in 
turn, rests on oral communication. This is because the words represented in print are from 
the oral language of the writer and reader. The meaning carried by the printed word was 
developed in contextually-based oral communication. These oral and written activities 



18 



forni a continuum of communicative activities with baby's early language at one end and 
higher levels of reading, writing, and speaking at the other. 

Heath points out the cultural nature of literacy practices that many assume to be 
"natural." She argues that the "literacy events" to which people are exposed, and the 
understanding of these events, must be understood in the context of the socio-cultural 
background of the participants (Heath, 1982). Moreover, since literacy practices are 
embedded in culture, they are also riddled with messages of power structures (Street, 
1997). 

The culture of the individual relates to personality, skills, talents, experience, and 
character and comprises what I call an interior culture. Beyond that individual culture is 
the family which transmits the wider culture of the ethnic, historic, and class group. This 
is impacted (sometimes in conflict) by the larger dominant culture and its institutions of 
media, commerce, school, workplace, judicial and political systems. 

While exploring how literacy fits into the culture of individuals' lives, it is also 
important to remember the influence of existing social institutions, and how these 
institutions provide a context for behavior. Barton refers to this larger context as "the 
ecology" of written language (Barton, 1998, p.42). He also refers to the "two senses of 
historical change: that of the individual's growth and development; and that of the whole 
culture over a longer time period." These changes affect the literacy practices of the 
different groups, so that the present is a culmination of past experiences, practices, and 
processes of change (Barton, 1998), both within and outside of the subgroup, affecting 
the individual culture. Each of these levels affects the other as institutional practices are 



19 

disseminated to subgroups and individuals, who respond by internalizing, modifying, or 
rejecting the institutional practice. 

Context of literacy includes the participant's identity, role, location, culture- 
specific principles of social interaction (such as the role of taking turns in communication 
and conversation while reading stories), and culture-specific modes of linguistic 
organization and speech, all of which reflect the participant's views and beliefs 
(Mcnaughton, 1995). According to Mcnaughton, "the participation patterns and the focus 
of the interactions when books are read to children in families carry meaning about social 
and cultural identity. Together these forces activate learning, and define and charmel 
development" (Mcnaughton, 1995). By examining literacy practices within the context of 
the home and culture of the family, I am following well-established practice in the field 
of literacy research. 

Influence of Context on Learning, Development, and Language Acquisition 

Bronfenbrermer (1979) and others have promoted the view that all human 
development occurs in a context which includes the social and cultural systems in which 
the individual is situated. Language, first spoken and then written, is embedded in a 
social context (Wertsch, 1985). Speech is, by its nature, a social activity, a two-way 
process that involves both the roles of speaker and listener. Language reflects the social 
need of a group to define hs life as a group. Culture is the result of community members' 
"collective efforts to create a social way of life," and all members of the group are 
"inherently situated in a sociocultural context" (Wertsch, 1991) which both influence and 
is influenced by language. 



20 

Learning takes place in the context of a situation or an activity. With the 
assistance of others who stimulate, guide, and support our learning, we create knowledge 
by internalizing, reflecting upon, and sharing our experiences. We develop literacy in the 
same way. Purcell-Gates showed that what children learn about the nature and ftinction 
of print before school is defined by the values of their culture. It is through interactions 
with print in the home that children come to know the form and use of written language 
in their culture. They learn the purpose of print, the places and times it is used, and they 
learn that it symbolizes meaning. They can produce print and meaning themselves 
(Purcell-Gates, 1997). In homes where the culture of the home does not support the use 
of print and print materials, Purcell-Gates found that rather than using them for their 
intended purposes, the pencils had become guns or fishing poles and the paper fashioned 
into kites, hats, and so forth. In other words, the materials had been used to fulfill the 
social functions already present in the home rather than to introduce new functions 
(Purcell-Gates, 1997). So, the home environment may determine the need for and the 
uses of the customary tools for printed communication. 

In examining the home literacy practices in a group of children who speak a 
language other than English and who are being reared in a cultural different from that of 
mainstream America, there may be observable differences in literacy practices, 
participant structure, and language usages. There may be a difference in the world view 
of these families as well as their cultural practices. Their life experiences may have 
predisposed them to engage in literacy practices that may be different from those of 
mainstream middle class Americans. 



21 

Whorf theorized that the language people speak influences their perception of the 
world. He talked about the differences in understanding of time and punctuality among 
differing cultures, pointing out that many languages do not contain a western concept of 
time. Some languages, like that of the Hopi Indians, contain neither past nor future tenses 
of verbs. All ideas are expressed in present tense only (Whorf, 1956). He later changed 
his strong interpretations to a weaker hypothesis: culture influences, but does not 
determine. 

Sapir later attempted to define the interrelation between language and the cultural 
information of those who speak it. He pointed out that Nawatl, the language of the 
Aztecs, contains only one word for snow, whereas most Eskimo languages contain many 
words for snow. The need to communicate about life in the context of an area of 
abundant snowfall has led to the creation of language that communicates the intricacies 
of ideas pertaining to snow. Since there is little need to communicate about snow in 
South America, there was little need for the Aztecs to develop language about snow 
(Sapir, 1929). 

Now known as the Sapir- Whorf hypothesis, the principle of the interdependency 
of language and culture in the strong version is not universally accepted; in fact, there are 
strong arguments against its validity. The weak version of the hypothesis states that the 
language of any particular culture in which people are reared influences the thinking of 
those individuals, which in turn creates the basis upon which the patterns of a particular 
culture develop. The question that remains is, how do we know that it is not the culture 
that forms thoughts and language, rather than the other way around? The truth is that each 
language in the world possesses its own unique concepts that are inaccessible to 



22 

nonspeakers. Researchers such as Durante (2001) and PhiUps (1983) among others who 
hold this principle of reflexivity contend that language and culture are constantly shaping 
each other. 

The nonverbal communication that accompanies speech is also culturally bound 
(Holdaway, 1979). Birdwhistell studied nonverbal communication extensively in the 
1960's. He claimed that only about 35% of the message in conversation is conveyed 
verbally and the other 65% is non verbal (Birdwhistell, 1974). He found that nonverbal 
features that may affect communication include distance between participants, posture, 
intonation, facial expression, eye contact, and duration of the interaction. All of these 
may influence the nature and reception of any verbal message. He observed that kinesics 
(body movements) along with facial expressions convey a nonverbal message, for 
example a disgusted turning away from someone. Kinesics may indicate messages of 
conflict, confusion, hostility, intimidation, openness, or a host of other thoughts and 
feelings. Moreover, culture is transmitted not only through the gestures and intonations 
that accompany speech but also through traditions such as chant, melody, rhythms, 
rhymes, and art forms such as poetry, dance, and drama (Holdaway, 1979). 

Summary 

All learning takes place within the context of a situation or activity. Children's 
language and literacy develop within the home environment, beginning with non-verbal 
and oral interactions and later progressing to reading and writing. During the child's 
emergent literacy phase, the family's culture has a significant influence on the child's 
literacy development. Moreover, children observe the uses of print in their home from a 
very early age, and grow up with an understanding of the literacy practices of their 



23 

family, which reflect the literacy practices of the wider socioeconomic group of which 
their family is a part. 

Literacy is linked to the institutions and settings in which it is developed. Reading 
and writing are constructs of wider social, economic, political, and cultural processes. 
Thus, language (as well as music, dance, art, and other modes of exchange) is influenced 
by — and influences — the cultural context in which it exists. It is, therefore, important for 
educators to understand the cultural context of Brazilian and other immigrant children as 
they develop their language and literacy skills. 

Language/Literacy Development of Young Children 

Introduction 

If we accept the tenet that language and literacy develop, not as isolated skills, but 
as part of a broader context and culture, then the question that is likely to follow is: what 
are the ways that langague and literacy develop within that context? In recent years the 
concept that literacy is an emerging process that occurs gradually and continually, from 
birth, has taken hold. This is an important concept, and it is one which has farmed my 
study of the literacy practices observed in the homes of five Brazilian immigrant families. 
Furthermore, the acquisition of a second language parallels that of the first. It is 
important, therefore, to discuss this emerging process of language and literacy, as well as 
that of second language acquisition. 

It has been said that language is the mirror of the mind (Chomsky, 1975). If that is 
true, then the more we understand about language the more we will be able to understand 
about the workings of the mind. Understanding the nature of how and why we develop 
language opens a door into the way we develop knowledge and understanding of 



24 

ourselves and the world around us. Language provides us with the capacity for rational 
thought. It is this language that gives us the ability to navigate the waters of the lives that 
we live in our many worlds. 

According to Pinker, language is a natural instinct in human beings. Having a 
language is, of course, part of what it means to be human. Language is the most 
accessible part of the mind and thus is fascinating to people as a means to gain deeper 
understanding of human nature (Pinker, 1995). Despite the achievements of current brain 
research and the strides that have been made in mapping what each particular area of the 
brain does, language itself and how a child learns it have not been completely explained 
(Pinker, 1995). 

Language learning seems to be a compound of both nature and nurture. The 
central reason why babies learn a first language is to communicate with other people who 
play some important role in their immediate environment (for example, feeding them). In 
their first year of life, even before they can understand or produce words, babies exhibit 
clear sensitivity to the meanings of nonlinguistic aspects of communicative situations 
such as facial expressions (smiling), gestures (pointing), tone of voice, and so on. The 
meanings of words are learned by linking the meaning of a particular situation (for 
example, adult dresses baby for a walk) with the word that the adult usually produces in 
that situation (for example, "We're going for a walk now.") Thus, the child's extra- 
linguistic knowledge plays a crucial role in making the linguistic input comprehensible. 
Gradually, as the child is exposed to more comprehensible input, s/he will begin to try 
out words in these situations (for example, "walk"), and the adult will delightedly 
respond and amplify the child's utterance, thereby providing both feedback as to the 



25 

appropriateness of the utterance, as well as more linguistic input to the child (Cummins, 
1981). 

Theory and Research in Language Acquisition 

As language learners, normal children begin by relying on one-way 
communication while they develop comprehension skills. Researchers (Hakuta, 1974; 
Ervin-Tripp, 1973) have found this phenomenon also in children learning a second 
language. 

There has been and continues to be a great deal of interest in understanding the 
process of second language acquisition, and if it parallels first language acquisition. 
Theorists have attempted to "describe" not only what is learned and when, but also 
"how" the language develops in a learner, and "why" the process may differ from one 
person to the other (Rutherford, 1 982). There have been different approaches to 
developing theories of second language acquisition with some researchers conducting 
large experimental studies bent on proving or disproving hypotheses. Others have taken a 
sociological approach. Furthermore, theories may overlap in some parts, yet contradict 
each other elsewhere. However, most of these theories can be classified into three major 
views on language acquisition. They should not be considered mutually exclusive 
although their major proponents may often present them as such: 
1 . Behaviorists claim that acquiring a language is nothing more than habit 

formation. This is partly true since quality and quantity of reinforcement by the 
environment influence language learning and it is true that behaviorism can 
explain some of the more routine aspects of language. However, language goes 



26 

far beyond imitation, otherwise children would not be able to produce new 
combinations of words and sentences they have never before heard. 

2. The innatist position says that we are biologically programmed for language and 
that language develops the same way other biological functions develop. 
Chomsky is the best known proponent of this theory. He claims that children are 
born with a special ability to discover the language system for themselves. It is in 
fact unavoidable and carmot be prevented; the language "mental organ" will 
function just as automatically as any other organ; the learner (acquirer) has no 
reason for acquiring the language; he does not choose to learn (acquire) under 
normal conditions, any more than he chooses (or fails) to organize visual space in 
a certain way ~ or, for that matter, any more than certain cells in the embryo 
choose (or fail) to become an arm or the visual centers of the brain under 
appropriate environmental conditions (Chomsky, 1975). Originally, Chomsky 
referred to it as the Language Acquisition Device (LAD). Nowadays, it is better 
known as Universal Grammar (UG), a set of principles common to all languages. 
What children have to learn is the way their own language makes use of these 
principles. The fact that all normal children acquire essentially comparable 
grammars of great complexity with remarkable rapidity does suggest that human 
beings are indeed specially designed to do just this. 

3. The interactionist view holds that language develops as a result of interaction 
between the child and the environment. Language adapted to the capability of the 
learner is a crucial element in language acquisition. In such situations the 



27 

speaker subconsciously uses the grammar rules s/he has acquired, to convey the 
message. 

There has been a great deal of psycholinguistic research focused on how people 
acquire, or learn, languages. Brown (1973) at Harvard and Slobin (1971) at Berkeley, 
among others, undertook large-scale investigations of young children's behaviors as they 
learned first languages. These researchers were looking for evidence of Chomsky's 
"mental structure," for uniformities in the verbal behavior of language learners. They 
followed two- and three-year-old children and their parents around for several years using 
tape recorders to catch natural exchanges in all kinds of situations and found striking 
evidence that some learning behaviors are common to all children no matter what 
language they are learning. 

Brown (1973) found that when children learn grammatical morphemes^, they 
learn them in the same order, and that order is not related to how often the children hear 
the structures or to whether their parents reward them for producing correct structures.^ 
Slobin (1968) found that children learning Hungarian and Serbo-Croatian first learn 
grammatical markers that come after nouns and verbs, and then those that come before 
the nouns and verbs. 



^ A morpheme is a unit of linguistic structure - lexical morphemes are nouns, verbs, adjectives, and 
adverbs, which are generally free morphemes and which are classes where new words can easily be added 
to the language ('open classes'). Grammatical morphemes have specific syntactic functions, are of a limited 
number, and are not easily added to the language 'closed classes'). 

^ Brown found that the order of morpheme development tended to occur in the following order: 1) present 
progressive - (aux + ing), 2) the preposition "in", 3). the preposition "on", 4) .plural inflections - e.g. "s", 
"es", 5) past inflections on irregular verbs, 6).possessive inflections (e.g. the dog's ball), 7).uncontractible 
copula (is, am and are), 8).articles (the, a, an), 9).past inflections on regular verbs (e.g. "ed"), 10).regular 
third person forms (e.g. "s" as in "She rides well"), 1 1). irregular third person forms (has, does), 
12).imcontractible auxiliary forms (did), 13).contractible copula (e.g. 's and 're), 14).contractible auxiliary 
forms (e.g. 'd) 



28 

These and numerous other regularities that have been found in the developing 
speech of children have led many psycholinguists to support Chomsky's thesis that the 
human brain is more than just a receptacle that parents and teachers fill with phrases and 
sentences. The structure of the brain guides the way young children learn and internalize 
the language they hear around them. Language acquisition is now believed to be an 
interaction between the child's irmate mental structure and the language environment, a 
"creative construction" process (Dulay, Burt, Krashen, 1982). 

The idea that we all acquire language in only one way may not be fashionable in 
the age of individual variation. There is, after all, very good evidence that people differ in 
many ways, and these variations affect the acquisition of knowledge in general (e.g. left 
and right cerebral hemisphere preference, difference in cognitive style). Yet it appears 
that there are some things we all do the same, and some functions we acquire in the same 
way. The visual system, for example, is structured similarly and develops similarly in 
everyone. Chomsky (1975) suggests that we have common cognitive interactional and 
social strategies in terms of language acquisition. 

Language as Precursor to Literacy 

In a literate culture, preparations for literacy are evident in early language 
development. It is important to emphasize this point because, historically, learning to 
speak and learning to read have been seen as very different activities. This has been one 
aspect of the more general divide between written and spoken language (Barton, 1998). 
The work of Dickinson and Beals (1994) and other researchers suggests that literacy 
seems to have roots in oral language and symbolic play such as dramatic play and make- 
believe (Pellegrini and Galda, 1994). Young children learn to do amazing things with oral 



29 

language. All they need are opportunities to produce language in situations that are 
meaningful to them, to be understood, to be part of conversations, and to have a model of 
the language to learn from. Conversations with adults or older siblings provide (1) a 
chance to learn language, (2) a chance to learn how to learn language, and (3) an 
available "expert" talker who undoubtedly, if unknowingly, provides the means to 
achieving the first two things (Lindfors, 1987). It is for this reason that I have deemed it 
necessary to examine the participant structure of the literacy events observed in this 
study. With whom children are interacting is equally as important as what literacy 
activities with which they may be engaged. 

Children are not entirely dependent on parents and other adults to develop 
literacy-related oral language skills. Many activities that, at first glance, might appear to 
be mere play with little developmental value, Eire in fact learning events for children. 
Pretending is one example of a way in which children can develop literacy-related oral 
language skills, creating and acting out a story of their own invention. As they engage in 
the talk of pretending, children not only use language to enhance their imagination 
(Pelligrini and Galda, 1994), they also learn how to use language by imitating what they 
have heard; experimenting with and creating words, and attempting to generalize rules of 
language and apply them to their play. This pretend play, referred to as dramatic play in 
the context of the preschool classroom, has much in common with reading. Objects used 
to create imaginary situations in play become symbols for the real ideas in the child's 
mind, similar to the way that print is another symbolic representation of words and ideas. 
Thus, children's dramatic play is an important precursor to literacy. 



30 

As children begin to develop an understanding of spoken language and engage in 
the communication practices of their culture, they also develop an awareness of language 
as a device to question and inquire about the world (Barton, 1998). This process, which is 
referred to as language acquisition, occurs in the context of social interactions (including 
conversations and other communications) within the family, and continues developing 
during the preschool years as children's use and understanding of language, reading, and 
writing become more sophisticated (Tabors, 1997). 

According to Kolb (1984), all learning is an experiential process, and everything 
we experience forms a knowledge base to which we relate new experiences and within 
which we develop new learning. Similarly, Vygotsky has offered the idea of the Zone of 
Proximal Development as the distance between what a child has learned through 
experience and what the child can learn with scaffolding and/or stimulation by an adult or 
older learner. These theories, taken together, suggest that learning takes place when the 
acquired knowledge or experience of the learner is challenged, stimulated, or scaffolded 
in some way (Vygotsky, [1934] 1986). A third concept that parallels and adds to this 
frame for learning is Freire's idea of Praxis as the intersection of reflection and practice 
(experience) to stimulate a new understanding of the world. Thus, Freire adds reflection 
to our understanding of how we develop new knowledge (Freire, 1986). 

By aligning these three ideas, we have a sequence in which learning is acquired 
through the experience of the learner, which is scaffolded by another person, and is also 
reflected upon by the learner. Through these three intertwined processes, the learner 
arrives at a newer and deeper understanding. This newer understanding is the experience 
upon which further scaffolding, reflection, and new learning will take place. 



31 

The beginnings of children's speech originate in their interaction with a more 
competent adult, usually a parent (Vygotsky, [1934] 1986). Conversations and other 
verbal exchanges between children and their parents or caregivers encourage the 
development of language, while "joint book reading between young children and their 
parents supports the development of the skills necessary for learning to read" (Pellegrini 
andGalda, 1994, p.23). 

The shift toward a perspective that emphasizes emergent literacy rests upon two 
primary sources: developmental theory (primarily the work of both Piaget and Vygotsky), 
and interactive reading theories, which are currently being expanded to include reading 
and writing (Teale and Sulzby, 1994). The paradigm of literacy as a developmental 
process beginning with children's early language development is embedded in 
Vygotsky' s view of the early genesis of higher mental functions. During the second year 
of life, the natural and the social lines of development (including language) come 
together to form a single lane of growth. The entire psychological development of the 
child can be seen as an emerging process which intertwines perception, memory, 
attention, and learning and which transforms the child's thinking into higher mental 
processes. For Vygotsky, higher mental functions are not a direct continuation of 
corresponding elementary functions that originate in human biology. Instead, they 
constitute a new type of formation that is refined in the crucible of social life with the 
intervention of gestures, symbols, and especially language. These communicative skills 
serve as mediators of action in socially meaningful contexts (Vygotsky [1930-1935] 
1978) and provide the cognitive tools for the child to derive meaning from his/her 
experiences of the world. 



32 

The child begins to use language not only for communication with others, but also 
as a tool of thought, a means to direct his or her own attention and behavior. It is at this 
point, when children internalize the cultural tool of language and rely on it to structure 
their own thinking, that human development differs from the development of other 
animals. The resulting reorganization of thought and language allows all higher mental 
functions to emerge. Vygotsky's theory suggests that, at first, language and cognition 
develop separately (Vygotsky, [1934] 1986). Vygotsky ([1934] 1986) regarded the inner 
dialogues or "self-talk" of the child, which are responses to experiences of the world, as 
the seat of human consciousness. Because the human mind is formed through the 
internalization and transformation of social interactions, it is permanently imbued with its 
social origins. Vygotsky underscored that the central purpose of speech, from the moment 
of emergence, is communication, social contact, and the influence of surrounding 
individuals (Vygotsky [1934] 1986). Only later does speech become an individually 
applied tool for governing one's own thoughts and behaviors (Berk and Winsler, 1995). 

By contrast, Piaget ([1926] 1930) viewed language as a secondary emergent 
phenomenon, an outgrowth of the sensorimotor activity involved in infants' and young 
children's independent exploration of the physical world. He saw "self-talk" as a 
symptom of the preschooler's immature, egocentric, nonsocially adapted thought. In 
Piaget' s view, "self-talk" served no positive adaptive purpose in the life of the young 
child. 

There is mounting evidence of a relationship between emerging literacy abilities 
in children and the emergence of talk about one's own mental states, words, and the 
difference between the words one utters and the meaning one intends to communicate 



33 

(Torrance and Olson, 1985). For example, a longitudinal study that examined the talk of 
children when they were 3-1/2 years old found a relationship between the number of 
verbs they used that referred to language (e.g., tell, ask) and mental states (e.g., think, 
want) and the children's early literacy development two years later (Pellegrini and Galda, 
1994). 

Children's ability to think about language (meta-language) and talk about it in a 
literate manner also can be seen in the way they define words. When asked for 
definitions, children can respond by mentioning characteristic actions or functions (e.g., 
A house - "where you live," a car - "you go places in it"). Such definitions are called 
informal definitions and are characteristic of younger children (Snow, C. 1990). Words 
also can be defined by using a copula (is, are), placing the item being defined in a 
superordinate class, and providing additional distinguishing information. For example, a 
dog can be defined as follows: "It is [copula] a kind of animal [superordinate] that...." 
(Lancy, 1994). 

Young children's language develops through language interactions with the adults 
around them. In playing and talking with their children, parents provide valuable 
language and pre-literacy experiences (Butler and Clay, 1987; Dickinson, 1994; Larrick, 
1982; and Morrow, 1993). In situations where mothers must work outside the home or 
are otherwise unable to fulfill around-the-clock caretaking roles, young children are often 
"cognitive apprentices" to siblings or other older children. However, RogofP s evidence 
suggests that older children, compared to parents or other adults, are less effective tutors 
(Rogoff, 1991). 



34 

On the other hand, some researchers posit that typical situations that support 
reading and language development in children include having several siblings, having 
frequent contact with many members of an extended family, and being included in family 
outings such as library visits with parents or other adults (Chall and Snow, 1982). In 
addition to oral interactions such as playing and talking to their children, parental 
activities focusing on letter- and shape-recognition also correlate with higher literacy 
measures (Hildebrand and Bader, 1992). According to Schickendanz, children who 
acquire literacy knowledge and skill before entering first grade are likely to have had a 
rich history of skillfully mediated literacy experiences (Schickendanz, 1999). 

Researchers also found that children who had many opportunities to use language 
were better readers when they were in school. Purcell-Gates suggests that the 
preschoolers who begin to construct knowledge about the forms and concepts of written 
English and its alphabetic nature begin formal literacy instruction in school with 
schemata for literacy, which puts them at an advantage over their peers who have yet to 
begin this learning (Purcell-Gates, 1996). Thus, while there are a variety of different 
emphases to emergent literacy in this research, there is a general agreement on the 
importance of home language and literacy development. 

Emergence of Literacy 

As part of learning to speak and learning the communication practices of their 
culture, children gradually use language to communicate on a broader range of topics in a 
wider variety of contexts. They use language, among other things, to demand, inquire, 
and conmient on themselves and their surroundings (Barton, 1998). 



35 

As children gain skill in communicating in ways that meet the demands associated 
with certain uses of literacy, they also begin to read languages in a new way — they begin 
to distance themselves from language and reflect on it. Instead of simply talking in order 
to attain some desired end, children begin to reflect on the activity of talking (Dickinson 
andBeals, 1994). 

Children develop knowledge about the nature of their oral language and bring 
their grammatical and phonological awareness into practice as they develop literacy 
skills. This linguistic consciousness is present long before the mastery of oral language 
and it continues to influence written language knowledge as well as oral language (Clay, 
1998, Mattingly, 1972). 

Literacy-enriched play environments are valuable in developing linguistic 
awareness. Such settings allow children to practice literacy behaviors and language in 
ways that make sense to them, and may facilitate children's creation of stores of meaning 
as well as skills in negotiating, meeting, and practicing various registers of speech. These 
linguistic skills are transferable to other literacy situations, such as reading and writing. 
However, literacy-rich play environments alone do not facilitate linguistic awareness or 
the entire emergent process of literacy development. The practice of littering a child's 
environment with print, without the conversations to provide practice and reflections on 
the communicative activities, may have little impact on children's emergent literacy. 

Research indicates that, during the emergent literacy period of the preschool 
years, children learn the significance of print as they experiment with it (Goodman, 
1984). They also learn that print can be used in many different ways, (Harste, Woodward, 
and Burke, 1 984) and they learn about the relationship between print and speech (Dyson, 



36 

1982; Dickinson and Beals, 1994; Ferreiro and Teberosky, 1982). Depending on their 
experience they may also learn the specialized syntax and lexis of print common to 
particular genres, such as fairy tales, thank you letters, catalogues, and so on (Harste, 
Woodward, and Burke, 1984; Purcell-Gates, 1996). 

A literate society is one in which print is recognized as the communicative device 
of choice for education and commerce. Print transcends time and space and enables 
stories to be preserved and disseminated at a later time and over any distance. Literacy is 
now considered to be associated with a distinctive form of social organization — a literate 
society — which employs the use of print to disseminate ideas (Olson, 1984). Because of 
the pervasiveness of print in commerce, education, and entertairmient in a literate society, 
it is of the utmost importance for all the members of that society to be literate if they are 
to function successfully in that society. 

Information in books is conveyed through words and syntax in the form of print. 
Since the content of the text may be new to the reader, he or she can only acquire the new 
knowledge using language, and as children gain skill in communication and 
understanding of the connection between language and books, they also begin to read in a 
new way. They begin to reflect on their language and on how they might adjust their talk 
to acquire what they want (Dickinson and Beals, 1994). Print awareness is a general term 
used frequently today to include the visual features of print, letter and word knowledge, 



37 

as well as some concepts about print or how books work.'* 

The emergent literacy perspective implies that children will learn about the nature 
and forms of written language (print awareness) according to the functions they see print 
fulfilling in their lives (Purcell-Gates, 1997). Awareness of print is an emerging literacy 
skill that occurs in young children long before they begin to read. It encompasses a 
developing imderstanding that print exists in many forms within the child's world, and as 
children become familiar with items of print, concepts of the nature and uses of print 
begin to emerge. It is a useful concept for parents in homes, caregivers in child care and 
preschools, teachers in the first two years of school, teachers giving extra help in literacy 
learning, as well as researchers and theorists. A forward thrust of learning can occur 
when adults provide opportunities for children to notice literacy events through their own 
interest in and use of print in their environment. Purcell-Gates, in a study of emergent 
literacy, found that the literacy success of low-SES children is affected by the frequency 
and type of print use in the home. In homes where adults use print in a variety of ways, 
children develop an understanding of the nature and function of print, most often through 
direct mother-child interactions involving the printed word (Purcell-Gates, 1996). 

The emergent literacy stance challenges the notion that learning to write must 
follow learning to read (Lancy, 1994). In fact, the roots of learning to read and write are 
in learning to speak, and more generally in children's early development. Advocates of 
whole language (Goodman, 1989) and emergent literacy (Teale and Sulzby, 1986) state 



* Concepts of print refers to all the concepts related to how print is organized and used in reading and 
writing tasks. Concepts about print includes awareness that print carries a message; that there are 
conventions of print such as directionality (left to right, top to bottom); that there are differences between 
letters and words, between upper and lower case letters; that punctuation also carries meaning; and that 
books have some common characteristics (e.g. author, title, front/back). These concepts about print are 
fundamental understandings that support reading acquisition. 



38 

that reading and writing develop together and utiUze the same mental processes involved 
in learning to use oral language. 

Emergent literacy proponents view reading and writing as interrelated and 
challenge the notion that learning to write must follow learning to read. In fact, by 
applying the emergent literacy paradigm we can assume that children probably acquire 
the use of literate forms like storytelling, letter writing, and menu reading by engaging in 
these activities, and not from "training" in a set of decontextualized skills that are 
unrelated to the communicative goals of these activities. 

On the other hand, some believe phonetic decoding is more important than lexical 
knowledge (children's understanding of words) for reading (e.g., Ehri, 1991; Kamberehs, 
1992). Still other theorists and researchers have suggested the plausibility of a multiple 
access model of word recognition wherein phonemes, morphemes, and lexical units are 
processed almost simultaneously during reading (Juel, 1991; Perfetti, 1985; Sulzby and 
Teale, 1991). 

Reading demands a lot from children's oral language resources. In everyday 
conversations, children do not need to rely strictly on words to communicate or interpret 
information, because gestures and intonation also provide considerable information. Also, 
people engaged in conversations often share considerable knowledge about the topic, 
reducing the amount of new information that must be communicated. In contrast, once 
children move beyond picture books, information in books is presented only through 
words and syntax. Furthermore, the content may be new to the reader; he or she must 
acquire new knowledge using only what is presented on the page. 



39 

The relation between reading and writing appears to differ according to age of 
child. Researchers who have studied literacy development in preschool and early primary 
school children find only a minimal relationship between reading and WTiting (Juel, 1988; 
Pellegrini et al, 1991), whereas in older children, during the primary school years, the 
relation is stronger. This issue is clouded to the extent that measures of reading and 
writing for the preschool child can be called into question if they are not derived from a 
theory of literacy development. Although reading and writing may appear to develop 
initially as separate processes, Vygotsky ([1930-1935J1978) suggests that early writing, 
like drawing, begins as first-order symbolization and only later becomes-second order 
symbolization, like reading' . Other related theories, such as context-specific approaches 
to cognition, posit that neither reading nor writing develops in isolation from the other 
(Pellegrini and Galda, 1 994). 

Like early language and awareness of print, children's early writing is based on 
the writing of the adults around them. In the view of Pellegrini and Galda, joint story 
reading activities, where children learn to attend to meta-linguistic verbs, is the primary 
way that parents promote reading (Pellegrini and Galda, 1 994). Writing, however, is 
driven by the child's growing capacity for symbolic representation, a capacity nurtured in 
verbal interactions with one's parent/caretaker and symbolic play with peers (Pellegrini 
and Galda, 1994). The cormection between reading and writing is not yet fully 
understood. Goodman found that almost all the subjects responded that they could write, 
yet they responded differently when asked whether they could read (Goodman, 1994). 



^ Drawing, as a first order symbolization, represents the idea or tlie image in the mind. However, writing as 
second order symbolization utilizes a code of written symbols which represents the sound image of speech 
which conveys the image in the mind. See Thought and Language by Vygotsky for further discussion. 



40 

Perhaps this response reflects differences between what they are required to read and 
what they are required to write. Maybe it signifies that, when writing, they control the 
text, whereas in reading, they do not. It might suggest that reading is deriving meaning 
from print while the writing that Goodman's subjects reported might have been merely 
the physical act of copying. However I see writing not as copying but as a 
communicative activity in which the written text is intended to be read. 

Summarv 

It has been my purpose in this section to describe the process of literacy as 
developing from the time that language begins to develop in infancy. As children 
develop their ability to communicate through the interactions with the adults and 
caregivers around them, they begin to internalize the structures and conventions of the 
language spoken around them. At the same time as they develop their ability to 
communicate effectively in that language, they are creating the foundations for the ability 
to communicate through the symbolic representations of that language. Children acquire 
the concept of symbolic representation of ideas through pretend play first. Later they 
apply this same concept to scribbling, drawing, and then to print. In literate societies 
children learn the importance of print through their activities surrounding print in their 
interactions with the adults around them. Thus, the literate activities of reading and 
writing can be viewed as resulting from an emerging process of language development 
that began at birth and developed through communication and play to reading and 
writing. 



41 

Home Influences Relating to Children's Literacy Development 

Introduction 

A growing body of research literature supports the concept of hteracy learning as 
a holistic phenomenon taking place in the home, in the community, in child care, 
preschool, and school environments, and culminating in literacy acquisition over time. 
As was previously discussed, the beginnings of literacy development occur within the 
context of the home during children's early years. It has also been shown that children's 
experiences with language and print at home are of particular importance for success in 
school (Schickendanz, 1999; Purcell-Gates, 1996; Sulzby and Teale, 1991; Clark, M, 
1984; Cochrane-Smith, 1984). During the preschool years, children acquire and use 
spoken language, which is the precursor to print. Then they begin the shift from 
representing objects in speech (called a "first-level symbol system" [Vygotsky, 1978]) to 
representing oral speech with written symbols. 

In-home Practices Affecting Literacy Development of Children 

The emergent literacy paradigm has brought to the forefront the pivotal 
importance and impact of the home and family on children's literacy. This has led to a 
great deal of interest in the types and amounts of literacy-related activities occurring in 
the home of preschoolers and how these might influence children's developing literacy, 
with an emphasis on situations in which literacy experiences take place within the 
routines of daily life rather than in school-like contexts created in the home (Auerbach 
1995). 

Thus, a study of the language and literacy development of young children needs 
to take into account the home environment because this is the context in which the 



42 

language and literacy development of these children is taking place. This also means 
that, in examining the homes of children whose culture and traditions in based in those of 
Brazil, it would also be important to understand some of the history, culture and 
traditions of that country. Finally it also means that the convergence of a Brazilian home 
environment with the American culture which exists beyond the confines of the home 
may further influence the language and literacy development of those children. 

According to Heath, "literacy events" are situations in which talk revolves around 
a piece of writing (Heath, 1983) or, alternatively, communicative situations "where 
literacy has an integral role" (Heath, 1984), and such talk may differ from one family to 
another, and from one culture to another. In my research I observed the in-home literacy 
events, and by that I mean a set of activities that contribute to the literacy development in 
children, such as reading, writing, singing, drawing, copying, etc. 

Parent-child relationship and literacy development 

While research into home influences has addressed a comprehensive range of 
forms of involvement in children's learning and development, there has also been a 
strong interest in the type and amount of parental participation in early language and 
literacy development (Caimey, 1989; Teale, 1986). In their study of symbolic play, 
linguistic verbs, and early literacy, Pelligrini et al. found evidence that supports the 
theory that the relationship between young children and their parent or child-care 
provider is the foundation for their early literacy development (Pelligrini et al, 1991). 
Parent-child activity that promotes literacy and language development in children 
involves more than simply reading to children. It involves conversation at the children's 
level, and activities that encourage richness of language; it means playing with children, 



43 

listening, talking, and singing with children. The more that adults talk with children about 
the stories they read, the more the story reading helps the child's language development. 
(Schickendanz, 1999). 

Mealtime conversations have been found to be an especially interesting and rich 
source for observing content-embedded literacy events because they are more naturalistic 
and contain more free-flowing language exchanges than most other activities (Pellegrini 
and Galda, 1994). The length and frequency of these narratives can then be coded in 
order to get a sense of the amount of extended discourse the child listened to and 
participated in. 

In Dickinson and Beals' research (1994), links between early experiences and 
kindergarten literacy appeared for child-constructed language environments (time spent 
pretending) when children were three, but more adult-determined envirormients showed 
linkages when children were four (mealtimes variables). These findings suggest that the 
younger children might not have been able to enter fully into the relatively complex 
adult-constructed dinner table language environments. In contrast, when pretending, these 
children controlled the complexity level and could fully exercise their emerging language 
abilities. Four-year olds, on the other hand, appeared to benefit from exposure to 
challenging adult-constructed discourses. 

Older siblings or other relatives do, in some cases, provide alternate pathways to 
literacy. Many young children watch a great deal of television, but that is not a likely 
pathway to literacy unless it is within a context of extended discussion and activity with 
an adult or older child. While it has been suggested that symbolic play is an important 
pathway to representational competence, some children may gain their competence 



44 

through constructive play, drawing, or music (Wolf, 1988; Pellegrini and Galda, 1994). 
On the whole, however, there has been little research on children who achieve 
conventional literacy without the benefit of home storybook reading, so knowledge of 
alternative pathways is meager (Pellegrini and Galda, 1994). 

In my research I examined both the types of literacy events in which the focal 
child was observed, but also the individuals with whom that child was engaged in that 
literacy event, if any. The family members, whether they are parents or siblings, are 
likely to have an influence of the developing literacy of young children. 

Frequencv of literacy events 

In other instances, literacy events in the home were examined for the frequency 
and the types of activities (Teale, 1986; Purcell-Gates, 1996) in which literacy events 
were embedded. Print-embedded family activities were observed to occur in several 
domains: (1) daily-living routines, or literacy related to the practices of everyday life, 
such as writing shopping lists, reading recipes, paying bills; (2) entertainment, or literacy 
related to activities for pleasure and relaxation, like reading a novel, reading the TV 
guide, reading labels and information on a videotape; (3) school-related activity, or 
literacy related to school, as in homework and reading, (4) religion — reading the bible or 
using prayer books, (5) interpersonal communication, like writing letters, or sending 
greeting cards, (6) information networks, such as telephone books or calendars, and (7) 
teaching/learning literacy, as in teaching the alphabet to a child (Teale, 1986). In my 
research I used these same social domains to further the understanding of the purpose and 
intent of the literacy events observed in the homes of the participants in my study. 



45 

A study by Hildebrand and Bader found that of seven pre-kindergarten children, 
those with the higher emerging literacy measures had parents who provided more 
alphabet books, alphabet blocks, cards, and shapes; more trips to the library; more story- 
reading to the child; more stories on tape or on records; and more discussions of TV 
shows (Hildebrand and Bader, 1992). Children with lower emerging literacy skills were 
given proportionally more gifts other than books, and watched more hours of television 
per week. 

Literacy activities at home vary according to socioeconomic status and ethnicity. 
Low-SES families do demonstrate literacy activities, but often not the conventional 
middle-class storybook reading (Anderson & Stokes, 1984; Goldenberg, et al, 1992). In 
contrast, the majority of literacy activities for the middle- SES families fell within the 
literacy-learning, storybook-reading, and entertainment categories (Purcell-Gates et al, 
1995). 

The idea of reading readiness, as evidenced in the curricula of schools and pre- 
schools and in publishers' materials, affects people's thinking about literacy development 
in two particularly significant ways. First, it leads them to conceptualize the early 
childhood period (and the behaviors of the children during this period) as the precursor to 
reading or writing, implying that only after the child has mastered the various subskills of 
reading readiness does the real part begin. Secondly, it tells teachers and parents that 
learning to read and write begins in a school-like setting where these readiness skills can 
be taught. Thus, materials designed for use with young children in home, school, or 
school-like settings are inevitably modeled on formal, sequenced, direct instruction 
(Teale, 1986). 



46 

Whether it is a narrative being co-constructed by the participants, a story that is 
part of a family's oral tradition, or a story read from a book, storytelling as a literacy 
event provides a great opportunity for children to learn about language (Barton, 1998). 
Story reading in particular provides the opportunity for children to observe reading 
strategies and infer processes of storytelling. In relation to the book, the child may 
observe things such as directionality, following the words of a story, and turning the page 
(Barton, 1998). Thus, the interactions surrounding parent-child story reading are 
important to the child's development of print awareness. The participants may access 
prior knowledge of their own experiences to bring understanding to the text (life to text 
interaction), or they may relate the story to the child's life, inviting the child into a 
conversation about the story to bring understanding to the child's experiences in life (text 
to life interaction) (Smith, 1988). 

Observations and diary reports of everyday activities show that children, 
regardless of SES, have many opportunities to learn about print. These include talking 
about the print encountered through daily routines such as grocery shopping, reading and 
writing letters, and reading entertairmient magazines, bulletins, brochures (Baker, et al, 
1999), road signs, food packages, prayer books, and Bibles. However, the presence of 
print and print-related items alone is not enough. Children also need to be taught the uses 
of those items (Purcell-Gates, 1997). 

According to Dickinson and Beals (1994), children who experience regular family 
talk around the dinner table and have opportunities to use narrative and explanatory 
speech patterns have an advantage in learning to read. It follows, then, that children 
probably acquire the use of literate forms like storytelling and their knowledge of the 



47 

appropriate register for storytelling through their interaction and experience with those 
forms in their environment. These oral language skills and representational skills are then 
transferred to reading and writing, respectively. 

Summary 

Language develops through communicative activities of infants and young 
children with the adults, caregivers, and older children with whom they are in contact. 
Children's cognitive development is facilitated by their ability to use language to 
conceptualize and reference their ideas. Literacy, which includes both reading and 
writing, is the result of an emerging process that begins with language development. 

Because emergent literacy is a process that starts at birth and continues dviring the 
early developmental years, the home environment and the communicative activities 
which take place among the family members in that environment have a profound effect 
on this developmental process. 

Thus, emergent literacy as the model of literacy development in children is a new 
paradigm that recognizes the influence of the context of communication in the home, 
both verbal and written as being the predominant in children's developing literacy. 
Research supporting the influence of the home on children's success in school has given 
rise to a variety of "family literacy programs" which are intended as interventions to 
change the family's dynamic in order to influence successful school outcomes for 
children. A key factor in the effectiveness of these family literacy programs, however, is 
their flexibility in adapting to the cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic needs, as well as 
the educational needs of the participants. 



48 

Summary of Relevant Literature 

Chapter 2 has presented selected Uterature that examined the factors related to the 
language and literacy development of young children. The chapter was arranged into 
three sections. The first section dealt with the contextual nature of the literacy 
development. The literature indicates that language development and literacy 
development occur in a context that includes the cultural and socioeconomic background 
of the individuals. 

The second section focused more specifically on the language and literacy 
development of young children. In this section I showed that the literature on language 
acquisition and emergent literacy demonstrates that language is a precursor to literacy, 
and that both develop through the communicative interactions that a child has with adults 
and older children around them in their daily lives. The work of Chomsky who has 
identified language as an innate instinct, common to all human beings explains the 
existence of language. Vygotsky's theory of the zone of proximal development provides 
an understanding that language is fostered through interactions with adults who scaffold 
language and learning for young children. Research has provided evidence to the 
strategic importance of parents and other caregiving adults in the development of 
children's awareness of print and narrative. This has given rise to a new paradigm of 
literacy development, emergent literacy, which has situated the literacy development of 
children squarely in the midst of the home and family. 

The third section examines what research has shown to be the ways that parents 
provide the setting for the emergent literacy process to take place. Analyses of the types 
and firequencies of literacy events facilitated by parents in the home have shown that 



49 



those from the mainstream culture are more likely to be successful in the U.S. 
mainstream schools. 

The literature provides support for the view that language and literacy develop 
within the context of the home, the family, and the community. Because of the 
importance of understanding this holistic view of language and literacy, particularly as 
this relates to the language and cultural differences of the participants in my study, 
methods of qualitative research, which were used, can be shown to be most appropriate. 



50 
Chapter III: The Challenge 

When Dominant and Nondominant Cultures Interface 

Freire labels our tendency to consider our own culture superior to others' as 
intolerance (Freire, 1998). Since power lies in the hands of the dominant group, the 
members of the non-dominant culture have to overcome the intolerance of the dominant 
culture at the same time that they are striving to change the circumstances of their lives 
that deny them access to that power. 

The ideological model of literacy (as opposed to the autonomous model) assumes 
that the meaning of literacy depends upon the social institutions in which it is embedded 
(Street, 1984), and that literacy is a political act which cannot be separated from the rest 
of life (Street, 1984). This ideological model of literacy focuses on the context in which 
reading and writing are formally taught, and is structured by the social and political 
power holders of the particular culture. Educational institutions are governed by 
organizations (whether religious, governmental, or political) which control the content 
and process of the system. This power can lead to a form of social control that limits 
education to certain groups (Graf, 1979). 

Research findings repeatedly show that there are family practices that support 
children's literacy learning and that prepare them for the type of learning experiences 
they will have in the classroom (e.g., Bissex, 1980; Taylor, 1983; Tizard and Hughes, 
1984). Such practices are often found in families that are part of the dominant culture. 
Parents who are members of that culture are often unaware of the ways in which they 
prepare their children for success by teaching them the skills that they believe led to their 
own success (for example, Hancock and Gale, 1996). 



51 

The communicative practices of the dominant culture are often different from 
those of non-dominant families. These practices, both verbal and non-verbal, are 
generally the currency of school instruction. Those who do not recognize or understand 
the meaning and nuances of these practices find themselves excluded. "If we hope to 
extend access to literacy to all of our people, we must recognize and legitimize the 
culturally bound nature of literacy and literacy acquisition" (Purcell-Gates, 1994, p. 50). 

Roberts found that conversations between parents and children differ according to 
socioeconomic status (SES). Middle-SES mothers typically use language that is more 
directive toward the child (Roberts, 1993). Reger, in his study in Hungary, also found that 
mothers speak to their children differently depending on social class, and he noted that 
higher-SES mothers used more complex and varied language when speaking to their 
children (Reger, 1 990). Heath also found that the low-SES parents of "Trackton" did not 
elicit questions from their children and they did not ask questions of their children, 
thereby curtailing language interactions (Heath, 1983). 

Children from lower socioeconomic status may not be linguistically or 
behaviorally prepared for dominant culture schools which have been designed for middle 
SES dominant culture children. This does not imply that non-dominant lower SES 
children are inferior in their capacity to learn. What it does mean is that preparation and 
support for such children is needed in the school system. The school makes use of a 
standard dialect that is frequently not used by speakers of nonstandard dialects. It is also 
important to note that classist and racist stereotypes and prejudices may inhibit the 
success of these children, even with early support. In looking at the context of lower SES 



52 

non-dominant culture children it is important to examine the child's context, including 
health care, child care, nutrition, housing, and protection from violence. 

Another caveat relates to the American propensity for equating low SES with 
poor preparation for school. According to Souza-Lima, the basic assumption underlying 
literacy practices in Brazil is that literacy is bound to the cultural and social development 
of individuals, but not to their economic development (Souza-Lima, 1997). This is not 
necessarily true in the United States, where lower income level is generally associated 
with poorer academic performance. Teachers of Brazilian immigrants and those from 
other cultures need to be aware that, although their students are economically poor, they 
are not necessarily poorly educated and their families do not necessarily fail to support 
their children's emergent literacy and school success. In fact, many of these families who 
are members of the working class in the United States may have been low middle class or 
middle class in Brazil. In addition, the dominant culture schools themselves create 
barriers for children with non-dominant culture and/or low SES backgrounds. 

Cummins and Danesi also noted that the standardized tests employed by 
educational institutions are designed to reflect the experiences and values of white, 
middle class, dominant students (Cummins and Danesi, 1990). These tests are only a 
measure of academic aptitude for dominant middle class whites. For non-dominant 
students, such tests merely indicate how much exposure they have had to typical white 
middle class experiences and values. 

Heath found that families from two different communities held very different 
concepts about early childhood that affected the way adults related to children and what 
adults expected of children. Children naturally learned the ways and customs that would 



53 

enable them to navigate and succeed in their community; however, these ways and 
customs did not necessarily enable them to succeed beyond their community (Heath, 
1983). This would seem to indicate that children from non-dominant cultures who fail to 
succeed in school may do so because they do not understand or know how to navigate the 
unfriendly waters of the dominant school system. 



Success Beyond School 

Studies of non-dominant homes show those homes to be literate environments 
(Purcell-Gates, 1996; Teale,1986); Taylor,1983), though the literacy activities that occur 
may be different from those found in dominant homes. 

Literacy is the key to power. In Brazil, a country where in the 1960's the vast 
majority of school-age children and parents were illiterate, Paulo Freire undertook to 
provide major widespread reforms to literacy programs so that this vast unempowered 
population could learn social and political responsibility and overcome the obstacle of 
illiteracy that prevented the development of a democracy, allowing them to take control 
of the power structure in their lives (Freire, 1998). 

These literacy programs were so successful that they have been modeled 
throughout the world. According to Freire, all education is a political act because, by 
becoming literate, people engage in analysis and understanding of the dynamics of power 
in society through "critical consciousness." In so doing, people arm themselves with the 
knowledge and conviction to speak out for change. This dialogic interaction between the 
dominant and non-dominant culture can only take place when members of both cultures 



54 

are equally literate, and such dialogue will lead to "cultural synthesis" (Freire, 1997, p. 
160). 

In the United States, studies have shown that the struggle for power is evident in 
Hispanic ESL students (Sola and Bennett, 1985); and that, as they begin to learn English, 
they also become interested in the power structure (Rockhill, 1997). However, the 
pernicious effects of racial and ethnic stereotyping by members of the dominant class 
create an atmosphere which limits access to that power for non-dominant families 
(Purcell-Gates, 1997). 

The more educators know about the culture, background, language, and abilities 
of individuals in family literacy programs, the more they will create effective programs 
(Shanahan, Mulhem, and Rodriguez-Brown, 1995). This can be said of other educational 
programs, as well. By recognizing differences in culture, socioeconomic background, 
education, and language, and by adjusting programs accordingly, the more likely we are 
to reach the students. 

Auerbach recommends a variety of practices that are culturally sensitive to 
students. She states that the schools need to take the initiative in reaching out to parents 
who feel it is inappropriate to contact the school. Schools should also provide information 
regarding school policies in the language of the students and their parents. They should 
create liaisons with resources in the community that are members of the students' culture. 
They should use newsletters to communicate with parents, involve parents in developing 
agendas for meetings, train parents to act as liaisons or interpreters for other parents, and 
involve all educational staff in learning about the minority community (Auerbach, 1997). 
I might add that these activities need to be done in the language of the students and their 



55 

parents. In short, school administrators and educators should make all necessary 
accommodations to help parents feel comfortable communicating with school personnel. 
This might mean providing child care, providing meals or refreshments, or eliciting the 
support of the church when it is a pivotal part of the life of those families. In my own 
experience, I have found that the church may yield a strong influence in helping to forge 
school and family alliances among Brazilians. 

Schools have a culture of their own, and that culture is shaped by the regulations 
and policies that govern the teaching and learning in the school or district. This school 
culture inevitably reflects the values and interests of the dominant culture to which the 
school policymakers belong. Based on the preferences of the dominant culture, schools 
typically expect children to possess a certain level of mastery and comfort with the 
English language. Children who lack this familiarity with English, either because there is 
little scaffolding of language (Vygotsky, [1934] 1986) at home or because English isn't 
spoken there, need assessment instruments that are developmentally, culturally, and 
linguistically appropriate (Tabors, 1997). Without such instruments, it will be difficult to 
understand and respond to the academic needs of these students. 

Cummins suggests that a school culture that demonstrates a willingness to 
collaborate with community resources and remains open to cultural diversity creates a 
climate of empowerment for students (Cummins, 1989). Tabors recommends a stance 
that acknowledges the social, cultural, and linguistic context of the home, and notes that 
parental involvement is particularly important for children whose home language is not 
Enghsh (Tabors, 1997). 



56 

Educators need to acknowledge the disabling effects that racial and ethnic 
stereotyping produces in attitudes and policies that restrict access and "blame the victim." 
They must decide whether they are willing to challenge this structure. If educators are 
committed to empowering students, they must decide what form their challenge will take 
(Cummins, 1989). It is also essential to teach those without power the rules of the 
dominant culture so that they can more easily participate in it (Delpit, 1995). 

The gatekeeper to the dominant culture is the school system. By facilitating 
success for some children and not others, schools in effect control access to the dominant 
culture. If the cultural practices of society define who is literate and who is not, those 
who control literacy practices control who will be admitted into the sacred sanctum of 
this literate society (Gee, 1990; Cairney, 1995). 

Literacy Begins at Home 

In the home of the preschool child he or she begins to understand and experience 
the fianction and form of print as it is used there (Teale and Sulzby, 1994), through early 
attempts at writing and drawing, storjlielling, and story listening. Children see print in 
use; they observe and hear it being read; they see older children and adults producing 
print through writing, and they begin to produce their own writing and to read their owoi 
writing. 

Those in the home who are expert in the uses of literacy — parents, older siblings, 
and other family members — model and introduce these uses to children. It is they, rather 
than the reading teacher at school, who create situations such as dirmer table 
conversations and interactive bedtime story rituals where children can observe, practice, 
and reflect on their experiences of language and literacy. When literacy is viewed as 



57 

emerging within and shaped by the varieties of social contexts in which children grow 
and develop (Sulzby and Teale, 1991), the influence of the home and family, rather than 
the school, is seen as the primary force. Literacy development is multifaceted, requiring 
growth in oral discourse skills as well as print-related abilities, and it occurs in the home 
as well as in preschools and schools (Pellegrini and Galda, 1994). 

Parents can facilitate the development of print awareness by being alert, and when 
they see that children are interested in letters and words, they can provide opportunities 
for them to learn more about them in informal playful settings rather than formal school- 
like lessons. Middle-class parents are often keenly aware of the skills necessary for 
children to succeed in mainstream schools, and they are likely to seek every opportunity 
to prepare them. Therefore middle-income parents may be more likely to engage in this 
playful orientation than are lower-income parents (Baker, Serpell, and Sormenschein, 
1995). Where parents were formerly encouraged to replicate drill and practice as in 
classrooms, the better informed parents now know what goes on in the classrooms today, 
such as, guided reading, whole language, emphasis on inferential thinking, and other 
activities that situate literacy development in a broader context. However other families 
can be taught similar skills and schools can help them. Krol-Sinclair documented that 
changes in literacy environment can increase English literacy and language proficiency 
for parents as well as children, and thus increase the incidence of shared literacy at home, 
such changes also increase understanding about classrooms and classroom literacies 
(Krol-Sinclair, B., 1996). 

A number of studies support a strong link between a home envirormient rich in 
literacy activities, literacy practices, and literacy events and children's acquisition of 



58 



school-based literacy. Practices such as shared reading, reading aloud, making print 
materials available, and promoting positive attitudes toward literacy in the home have 
been foimd to significantly improve children's literacy learning (Clark, M, 1984; 
Cochrane- Smith, 1984). According to parental reports obtained by Bums and Collins 
(Bums and Collins, 1987), gifted kindergarteners who were early readers had had more 
home exposure to discussions of letter-sound correspondences, letter names, and word 
identification experiences than did those who were not early readers. 

Types of literacy experiences in middle-SES families are geared toward school 
readiness. Middle-income parents reported reading stories to their children more 
frequently, using flashcards to help children learn words, hearing children read, having 
books and magazines in the home, and having children experiment with the creation of 
words and sentences using flashcards (Baker et al, 1999). 

Different beliefs and attitudes affect the types of literacy activities parents 
facilitate for their children. Most families use ABC books (though less often than other 
types of books) and reading is seen as a set of skills to be cultivated. But families have 
different perspectives toward children and parents engaging in conversation about the 
print encountered in daily routines, or children practicing vwiting letters seen in various 
places (signs, newspapers, books) as offering alternative ways to cultivate reading skills. 
These different perspectives affect the kinds of literacy opportunities parents make 
available to their children (Baker et al, 1999). 

Supporting Literacy in Families 

The understanding of literacy as an emergent process that occurs first in the 
context of the home and family of the preschool child has led to the development of 



59 

family literacy programs whose purpose is to influence the home environment of children 
who are at risk for school failure. The approach is based on the hypothesis that if children 
from middle-class, white, dominant families are more successful in school than children 
from low-SES, non-dominant families, the solution is to change the interactions, the 
materials, and the activities engaged in by the latter families so that they will become 
more like the white, middle-class families. The danger in this type of program is that, in 
their enthusiasm to "improve" the home environment of at-risk families, educators often 
do not accept or respect the home cultures of the students. It is very important for 
educators working with families to support literacy to develop approaches that are 
culturally sensitive to the individuals and communities they are serving (Auerbach, 1989; 
Delgado-Gaitan, 1991). 

In addition, Auerbach points out that focusing on the family as "the locus of 
change excludes consideration of social, economic, or institutional forces that may 
contain family life and impede literacy development," (Auerbach, 1997) placing the 
entire responsibility for education on the family and removing responsibility for 
education from the school and the community. 

There has been a great deal of interest in learning if and how family literacy 
programs might influence the developing literacy of children. Family literacy researchers 
are interested in exploring how participation in a family literacy program might favorably 
impact literacy development in children, as well as investigating which literacy practices 
and/or literacy events at home might support the development of literacy in children and 
other family members. 



60 

It is important for family literacy practitioners to understand the need for 
sensitivity to differences in attitudes, values, and experiences of the families they work 
with. Successfiil family literacy educators need to be familiar with the cultural 
backgrounds of the participants, including the challenges they face, the reasons they wish 
to be in a family literacy program, their past history and educational experience, and the 
aspects of their culture that could be misconstrued in our culture (Auerbach, 1989). 
Differences in expressing feelings in public, attitudes towards those in authority, value 
placed on relationships versus achievements, facial expressions, and eye contact when 
speaking, and differences in attitudes about personal autonomy or expressing one's 
opinion all are culturally based behaviors. 

The English-literacy problem is often seen as a direct result of poverty, cultural 
deprivation, and disadvantage. Mainstream families do not have the problem; therefore 
the solution is to make disadvantaged families more like mainstream families (Grant, 
1997). Needless to say, this approach is severely lacking in sensitivity. Moreover, it is 
rarely effective. 

Culturally sensitive family literacy programs can significantly improve the school 
success of the children. Delgado-Gaitan (1990) found that the relationship between ten 
Mexican parents and their children's school improved as parents learned more about the 
school and its expectations for their children. Parents also felt more confident in 
communicating with teachers and, as parents spent more time reading and writing with 
their children, they used these times to share their cultural values and beliefs with their 
children (Delgado-Gaitan, 1994). Latino families in Turlock, California, were grateful 
that the school-supported family literacy program promoted and enhanced their 



61 

relationship with their children by demonstrating to both children and parents that reading 
and playing games together, in any language, fosters a closer relationship between 
parents and children (Switzer, 1999). 

Taylor and Dorsey-Gaines (1988) have argued that the explanation for school 
failure is due not to the deficits of parents, but rather to the failure of schools to support 
families struggling to overcome the social, political, and economic challenges that 
prevent them from providing a supportive learning environment at home (Taylor and 
Dorsey-Gaines, 1988). Auerbach points out that many of the outcomes that the National 
Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) tracks as indicators of success (standardized test 
scores, parental help with homework, parental involvement with school functions, 
characteristics of healthy families) are culture-specific to white, middle-class norms and 
expectations (Auerbach, 1997). Their model presupposes that parents are at home with 
their children to watch television together, or play together, or help with homework. In 
reality, the parents may be working three jobs to support their children, and the children 
may be in the care of aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, or even older siblings. I myself 
was once enlisted to provide child care for a brief period while I was conducting a home 
visit. Expecting parents to help their children with homework assumes not only that the 
parents are available, but also that they are communicatively competent in standard 
English and that they have the educational background to understand the homework, to 
explain it to a child at the child's level, and to help the child in the language of the 
school. This same dissonance with culture of families has been observed in the federal 
Even Start Program, which requires the use of standardized tests for the adults that do not 



62 

take into account the socio-linguistic background of the adult participants (Fandell, 
1997). 

Because of these challenges, family literacy programs may need to provide 
transportation, child care, and bilingual teachers. Program personnel may need to assist 
students and families with locating housing or stores that sell nutritious foods, translating 
documents, immigration requirements, or conducting assessments for learning 
disabilities. Such a network of services would: (1) help educators to better understand 
the needs of students and their families; (2) help to alleviate some of the challenges and 
barriers faced by these families; and (3) facilitate more successful outcomes for learners. 

Summary 

There are many people who believe that in this culture there is only one way to 
educate people for success. This one way reflects the mainstream white middle class 
culture, since much research indicates that children from white middle class families 
generally succeed in such schools. However we must reflect that many children from 
such families do not succeed academically. Those who do succeed frequently fit into a 
certain mold - white, middle class family, living in a print-rich environment with parents 
who have the time, interest and ability to read often to themselves and their children. 

Our educational system which reflects the American "mainstream culture" is 
grounded in the written word. This mainstream culture is not based on an oral tradition - 
it is geared, instead, to reading and writing. Our system is geared to the mainstream 
middle class student, the student from the culture of power. However the learning needs 
of others whose learning styles may be primarily oral, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, 
interpersonal, auditory (Gardner, 1991), or who come from homes that are culturally 



63 

diverse or linguistically different may not be supported by this system. Because power 
resides in the white American middle class, the power holders decide that the style of 
learning which is easiest for them and in which they can most easily excel should become 
the norm for everyone. There are some who believe that the class and power realities in 
America compound this problem (Freire, 1997; Bowles and Gintis, 1976; Perkinson, 
1968). 

Thus, the challenge is multiple. The poor don't have access to the tools the power 
structure requires (computers, multitudes of print materials, parents and/or other adults 
who are available and experienced in reflection and dialogue). Instead the priority of 
their lives may be surviving homelessness and hunger rather than extending the 
educational experiences of their children. 

Immigrants when they come to the U.S. are often in debt, and they frequently 
don't have the language to communicate their needs. In the case of some Brazilians, the 
subject of this dissertation, the availability of education has been a new experience. 
Some may question what has been the benefit of an education that has trained them in 
skills in which they cannot earn sufficient income in their native country to support their 
families. In addition many have suffered in their own country due to discrimination and 
lack of services for the aged, the disabled, and the poor. 

In the U.S. the expectations and attitudes of teachers in public schools may 
include low expectations for academic success, while others may feel shock and anger at 
being held accountable for the failure of such immigrant children to achieve successful 
scores on high-stakes standardized state tests which teachers perceive as the problem of 
the immigrant child's lack of preparation, effort, irmate ability, or motivation to learn. 



64 

There is an overarching lack of understanding of the complex challenges faced by 
immigrant students. These students may lack literacy in their native language. They 
may come from homes and families too busy working so that they may provide the 
essentials of life to their family here as well as in their native country. They may also be 
ashamed to find themselves displaced from a middle or higher class of profession in 
Brazil and the respect associated with it to the life of menial, unskilled labor because of 
their limited English proficiency. Carrying these burdens, they find themselves 
attempting to navigate a school culture that is not only the dominant mainstream culture 
of American society, but is viewed by many to be the leader of the entire world in 
intellectual, industrial, commercial, and even moral ventures. Some of the leaders of this 
mainstream American culture even believe themselves morally obligated to lead the 
entire world to follow their way of life. 

Recently nativism and anglocentrism as seen in the so-called Unz initiative passed 
in Massachusetts and California. Based on this notion it is now illegal for teachers to 
teach in any language other than English in a public school. The value of past experiences 
and learning of immigrant students simply will not be heard and recognized until they 
have somehow managed to bridge the chasm of culture and language on their own. 

The challenge that we face is: 

1 . to recognize the intellectual strengths of these students 

2. to find areas in which those strengths can connect with the demands of the 
educational system of the dominant culture. 

3. to build upon that strength as a bridge to construct new skills and learning - not to 
displace existing learning. 



65 

4. to provide the skills necessary to navigate the dominant culture while maintaining the 
richness and prior knowledge developed in their heritage culture. 

This is the challenge that we must address when educating the many newcomers 
entering our schools from a myriad of languages, cultures, and educational backgrounds 
around the world. How can we build this bridge between prior knowledge and skills 
learned in a different language perhaps through a different modality of learning and make 
this connection to the new skills they must develop to successfially surpass the challenges 
not only of schools and high-stakes testing but, eventually, a whole world of success in 
all aspects of life, whether it be family, career, health, or home. In this dissertation, a 
study of the in-home literacy practices of a group of Brazilian Head Start children, I will 
attempt to identify the strengths of these families as well as the barriers of immigration 
that might impact building the bridge. 



66 
Chapter IV: Methods and Procedures 

Introduction 

Qualitative research has specific goals and techniques which make it appropriate 
for certain types of studies, particularly those which are related to the personal 
development of a group of people under study. Because such phenomena include a 
plethora of variables that influence participants in various ways and to varying degrees, it 
is the method of choice in such studies. 

In the study of literacy development, the descriptive methodologies characteristic 
of qualitative research have increasingly become the methods of choice. Qualitative 
research is a type of research consisting of several methods of inquiry that are traditional 
to the fields of sociology and anthropology (Kirk and Miller, 1 986). 

Existing research supports the notion that literacy and language development 
occur in children through language interactions with the adults around them (Bissex, 
1980; Chall and Snow, 1982; Heath, 1983; Scollon & Scollon, 1981; Taylor; 1983; 
Taylor & Dorsey-Gaines, 1988). Therefore, it is critical that researchers keep the study of 
literacy within the context of the everyday lives of the people around them (Szwed, 
1981). 

Qualitative research most effectively accommodates the complexities involved, 
taking into account the multiple everyday contexts and the diversity of literacy events 
that form a child's world. I believe that the many and varied influences of this holistic 
phenomenon can only be captured through qualitative techniques. It is for these reasons 
that I have chosen to explore the questions under study in this dissertation using 
qualitative methods. Qualitative research is a method of inquiry in which the researcher 



67 

attempts to learn the stories of a group of people. Frequently they are stories of hard- 
working, financially disadvantaged people with pride and dignity, despite the challenges 
they face (Bateson, 1984) because they are intrinsically worthy (Seidman, 1991). 
Through interviews and in-home observations, I have attempted to learn the stories of my 
informants. 

Through this research I have attempted to discover the significance of the events, 
incidents, and/or culture demonstrated or disclosed by the informants of my study. 

My research has been guided by two central questions: (1) What are the in-home 
literacy practices of a group of five Brazilian immigrant Head Start families? and (2) 
What cultural and socioeconomic factors might influence these practices? The purpose 
of this chapter will be to describe the methods and procedures employed in this research. 

While my initial concern was to develop research techniques sensitive to the 
unique complexities of the families, my primary goal was to develop ways of studying 
the literacy practices of the participating families in a natural setting. Techniques gleaned 
from existing literacy research guided but did not predetermine my approach. Szwed 
stresses the need for researchers to keep the study of literacy within the context of the 
everyday lives of people (Szwed, 1981). In this study it has been important to include the 
broader influences of family, community, school, and the major life stressor of leaving 
home and extended family to emigrate to a foreign country where the language and 
customs may seem strange and disorienting. Therefore, the selection of naturalistic in- 
home observations and interviews with adult family members were the predominant data- 
gathering methods, which furnished a holistic frame within which to view the literacy 
practices in the homes of these young children and the context of the family in which 



68 

those literacy practices were observed. 

Data from a series of in-home observations and parental interviews comprised the 
study. This was done in order to learn about the types and frequencies of in-home literacy 
practices regarding the children in these families and to hear the parents describe their 
situations from their own perspective. 

In conducting my research, I situated my observations and interviews in the 
naturalistic setting of the homes of my informants. In conducting this research my 
purpose was to use a naturalistic setting that is both comfortable and familiar to the 
participants. In order to further a deep understanding, my intent was to work with a small 
group of participants with whom I could maintain extended contact over a period of time 
(Merriam, 1988; Miles and Huberman, 1994). 

Employing a holistic approach to gathering data, my purpose was to learn about 
the answers to my questions in the real lives of my informants. There were no right or 
wrong answers nor even a single yes/no answer to any of my research questions. I chose 
to pursue those themes that appeared most relevant to my questions and most compelling 
to me personally (Miles and Huberman, 1994). It is possible that other researchers would 
have elected to focus on other themes. The nature of the qualitative research requires that 
one must always be open to change the directions of a study if the data reveals a 
compelling new avenue to explore (Bateson, 1984). 

Since qualitative research attempts to either verify existing theory or develop new 
theory (Glaser and Strauss, 1967), the researcher will then refer to the theoretical frame 
as the data comes in and analysis begins. The theoretical frame is an aid to the researcher 



69 

in examining his/her results in the hght of aheady existing research data, and may 
provide support to the vaUdity of the study. 

Stance of the Researcher 

Following in the methods of anthropologists, I have attempted to immerse myself 
in the culture of five Brazilian Head Start families on Martha's Vineyard. My purpose 
was to understand these families through "an impulse of closeness" by relocating and 
living in their midst, while recognizing the inevitable "impulse of distance" (Bateson, 
1984, p. 161), stemming from my inherent disposition as a person bom outside of that 
culture. Due to this juxtaposition of identities, my role as researcher was one of 
participant observer. As I strove to enter the door of their lives and their culture, I was 
mindful that I was not bom of their families and culture. 

In employing qualitative methods the researcher who is the primary instrument of 
data collection and is integrally connected to the data needs to maintain an awareness that 
his/her training, knowledge, and characteristics are necessarily brought to the research 
through his or her unique perspective. This means that the researcher's ability to be 
responsive and sensitive to the whole context of the research study, including nonverbal 
cues, is paramount to the success of the project. It also means that the success of the 
project depends on the ability of the researcher to be flexible and adaptable to the needs 
of the study as they become known (Merriam, 1988). The researcher needs to be able to 
view the data in a context in which the understanding of an observed situation can be 
expanded through other types of communication, such as allowing interviews to inform 
the observations and vice-versa (Merriam, 1988). 



70 

I approached this research from the multi-faceted perspective of (1) my own 
personal interest in Brazilian culture as described in Chapter 1, (2) a Ph.D. student 
conducting my dissertation research, and (3) a Head Start Research Scholar receiving 
funding from ACYF (the Administration of Children, Youth, and Families) to complete 
this research. These latter two perspectives carried with them certain responsibilities and 
requirements. 

Ph.D. Student 

As a Ph.D. student embarking on my dissertation research, I worked under the 
guidance of my doctoral committee and my advisor, who advised me as I proceeded with 
my work. Also, as a researcher from Lesley University, my research proposal needed the 
approval of the "Committee for Research on Human Subjects". The members of this 
committee had particular concerns because my study involved a vulnerable population of 
economically deprived immigrants, and that the study itself, in which I would be 
spending a great deal of time in their homes doing observations and interviews, could be 
very intrusive. The importance of safeguarding the interests, sensitivities, and rights of 
individuals, especially those from vulnerable populations, has been identified as an 
important ethical issue in qualitative research (Spradley, 1979). In order to ensure that 
these subjects would not be exploited in any way, the committee required that I create a 
"Consent Form" that would explain clearly what would be involved in the study. After 
some negotiation regarding the exact wording of the "Consent Form", it was approved by 
the committee. 

The final consent form was presented to the participants in both Portuguese and 
English. A description of how this "Consent Form" was presented to the participants is 



71 

described in the "First Meeting with Participants" section of this chapter. The content of 
the form described the purpose of this project, the benefits of this project to the Head 
Start program, the duration of the project, the number of home visits, what I would do 
during these home visits, and that each family would receive a $300 stipend at the 
conclusion of the home visits. The consent also described a proposed program of group 
meetings with family literacy activities. However, this latter proved inconvenient for 
most of the families, and was ultimately dropped from the data collection plan. 

Following the description of the project, there was a list of participant rights 
regarding the project. This guarantee of rights included the option that they could stop or 
refuse any home visit without notice, that they could refuse to have their interview tape- 
recorded (one participant did refuse), that they would never be taped without their 
consent at the time, that they might listen to any tape recording, that they could leave the 
project at any time and for any reason, that strict confidentiality would apply to anything 
learned through observations or interviews, that their true names would not be used in 
any information disseminated about the project, and that they would be entitled to receive 
a project summary which would be disseminated to the Head Start program at the 
completion of the work. The full consent form, in English and Portuguese, is included in 
the appendix of this dissertation. 

Head Start Research Scholar 

ACYF offers research grants to doctoral-level graduate students "who form 
partnerships with Head Start programs in their communities to improve the quality and 
effectiveness of Head Start" (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 1999). 
According to ACYF, Head Start has a mission to serve as a national laboratory for 



72 

"expanding our knowledge in the field of child development" and that, as such. Head 
Start programs provide access to a "highly diverse population where research can be 
conducted in natural settings" (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 1999). As a 
prospective Head Start Scholar my proposal for research was guided by certain criteria. 
(1) The proposed research needed to be one which had "already been conducted in other 
settings and with other populations, but had never been conducted with a Head Start 
population" (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 1999). (2) The Head Start 
Research Scholar was required to enter into a partnership with a Head Start program for 
the purposes of conducting the research. As evidence that this had been accomplished 
the application for the Head Start Research Scholar grant was required to include (a) a 
letter from the Head Start program certifying that they had entered into a partnership with 
the researcher, and (b) a letter certifying that the application had been reviewed and 
approved by the Policy Council of the Head Start program (U.S. Dept. of Health and 
Human Services, 1999). 

This meant that in addition to designing my research plan, I needed to find a Head 
Start program with a Brazilian population interested in my research and willing to 
collaborate with me. Initially, I contacted two Head Start programs with Brazilian 
families in the greater Boston area where I lived at the time. One was hesitant to 
collaborate on a research project. The second was interested, but the population was 
scattered across several towns and the director of that Head Start Program believed that 
they did not represent the Brazilian community. I, then, contacted the Head Start 
program at Martha's Vineyard Community Services and they were very interested in a 



73 

collaboration. I learned, further, that, as a home-based Head Start program, they would be 
ideally suited to a research project involving home visits. 

Participant Observer 

In my role as participant observer I was challenged to participate as much as 
possible in the lives and stories of the participants in order to come to a better and clearer 
understanding of their world, how they view their reality, and how they make meaning 
from it all (Bateson, 1984). At the same time, I was required to observe myself in the 
scene and recognize the personal issues that I might bring to understanding and 
interpreting the experiences I observed and the voices I heard. 

As a participant observer, I have been drawn into the lives of the participants in 
ways that otherwise might not occur in a research project. Participants and their friends 
and relatives have plied me with questions about the schools, the government, and about 
my background. They have asked my assistance in translating, in making and taking 
English language phone calls for them, in applying for a post office box, and in applying 
for medical insurance. All of these activities have served to enrich my experience as 
participant observer and have added to my understanding of the challenges faced by these 
five Brazilian families as they attempt to navigate the American culture. Descriptions of 
some of my experiences as participant observer follow. 

Translator and interpreter. 

Because of the relationship we developed during the project, the families have 
asked for my assistance in several cases where they needed someone to translate 
documents or conversations. One of these concerned a letter from the State of 
Massachusetts regarding transfer of automobile insurance from an insurance company 



74 

that was closed by the state. I translated the document for this parent and referred him to 
a phone number provided where he could receive more information in Portuguese. 

When one mother, Larissa, gave birth to a second child in December, I visited her 
at the hospital and brought a gift for her. At the hospital, what 1 had expected to be a 
short visit, turned into a much longer one. When hospital persormel realized that I spoke 
Portuguese, they immediately asked me to act as interpreter for them. They had several 
questions to ask her, and they also wanted to reassure her about the baby's health. They 
realized that their many questions and procedures caused her to worry that something was 
wrong with the baby, but they had not been able to reassure her that it was routine and 
that her baby was fine. We were all relieved when she finally understood this. 

In another instance I set up an appointment and then accompanied one of the 
mothers, as her interpreter, to the local Community Action Agency to inquire about 
assistance for housing. 

In a fourth instance I went to the office of a medical doctor to interpret during a 
medical exam for one of the mothers. Requests such as these indicate that a need exists 
in this community for skilled translators and interpreters for this disadvantaged, 
immigrant population. 

Cultural broker. 

Sometimes, in addition to translating from Portuguese to English, I found that 
American procedures and practices also needed to be interpreted and explained to 
families. During a visit to Maria's family, her parents asked me to translate a letter from 
the state government regarding their application for health insurance. This became an 
hour-long discussion in which I tried to answer some questions about social security. 



75 

taxes, and Medicaid. I also referred them to the appropriate social service agency for 
fiirther assistance. 

Providing assistance to others in the Brazilian community. 

During my scheduled visits it was not uncommon for Brazilian friends of the 
participants to also ask my help in securing services or simply to ask me questions about 
my work and how they might be able to get into English classes. (There are waiting lists 
for all ESL classes here.) Whenever possible I provided the names and phone numbers of 
service providers able to assist them. 

Facilitator for assistance with basic needs. 

During another visit I learned that one participating family, who arrived from 
Brazil only a few short months ago, did not have any winter clothes and could not afford 
to buy any. I contacted Martha's Vineyard Community Services and a local church and 
explained the situation and the need for confidentiality. Within a few days both the 
parents and the child had winter coats. 

Networker to Martha's Vineyard community. 

Through my contacts with the Brazilian families, and the Martha's Vineyard 
Community Services staff, word about my presence on the island and my work with 
Brazilians has spread. Because of the steadily increasing population of Brazilians, 
community leaders are interested in taking steps to provide the outreach necessary to 
support this particular immigrant population as they and their children begin to integrate 
into the American culture. As an example of this interest, I met with the vice president of 
a local bank. Our purpose was to develop ways to better outreach the Brazilian 
community, and to make the services of the bank accessible and of value to the Brazilian 



76 

members of the Martha's Vineyard community. The connections I was developing with 
various organizations in the community eventually led to my being hired as the first 
English as a Second Language Coordinator for the elementary schools on Martha's 
Vineyard. 

Facilitator for assistance with housing. 

As previously discussed, housing is a major challenge for the year-round residents 
living on Martha's Vineyard. At her request, I took Nilza to the local community 
housing agency, as well as the Chamber of Commerce to sign up for the "housing list", a 
list of island residents with available summer rentals. I followed up with this by going 
over the list with her each week to determine which rentals interested her, and then 1 
made the phone calls on her behalf In every case, however, it turned out that the "house" 
for rent was, in reality, one bedroom in someone's house. 

At my last visit to her home, Denise had excitedly told me about the house they 
were buying. A few weeks later, I tried to contact her for several days, at both her 
previous and her "new" residence to no avail. I finally found her and her entire family 
sharing a hotel room with her sister. Denise' s sister worked for the owner of the hotel, 
who agreed to let the family stay for four weeks until the height of the tourist season 
started. Denise said that they had a place to rent for an additional two weeks after that. 
Then, she said she didn't know where they would go; and her baby was due in five days. 

As we talked, Denise told me that a short time before they were to close on their 
house, the bank discovered a needed repair on the roof. The ovmer refused to make the 
repair and the bank withdrew the loan. Denise told me that a few days later, the owner 
placed the house back on the market at an asking price of $40,000 more than their 



77 

Purchase and Sale agreement. She angrily told me that she believed that the owners were 
looking for a way to break the agreement so that they could take advantage of the wildly 
escalating housing market. 

Island shuffler. 

On Martha's Vineyard, everyone, not only Brazilians, is at risk for inadequate 
housing during the tourist season. Many residents resort to "tenting" for the summer 
(Allis, 2002; Rodriguez and Dedman, 2002). During the height of the tourist season 
housing also becomes scarce and expensive due to tourist demand, leaving many families 
in makeshift or shared quarters (Allis, 2002). Thus, housing also became a problem for 
me as researcher on this project. Although 1 had arranged for on-island summer housing, 
as well as a contingency plan, and another contingency plan, one plan after the other 
tumbled (more evidence of the dysfunctional state of affairs regarding housing). Then, I, 
too, became one of the "Island Shufflers." To become an "Island Shuffler" means 
changing mailing address, arranging forwarding of mail, transferring phone service, 
arranging for movers, and arranging for storage of belongings at the exact same time that 
a thousand other year-round island residents are doing the same thing. Only those who 
can afford to own their own homes are exempt from this. 

For me, it also meant moving my files, my books, my data, and my computer in 
addition to my personal belongings, from one place to another, worrying that nothing 
would be damaged or lost. Then, after housing was found, I faced re-organizing; 
arranging a workspace; arranging storage for books, files, and other belongings that space 
would not allow; and finally finding things in the small room I came to inhabit. Although 
inconvenient, this experience also enriched my perspective as a participant observer. 



78 

allowing me to experience the same inconvenience, worry, and disruption of life that all 
of the participants in my project face every spring. 

Preparation for Research 

Relocated to Martha's Vineyard 

In order to establish a relationship with the Martha's Vineyard community and to 
make myself most accessible and available to carry out the research, I relocated to 
Martha's Vineyard for the duration of the data collection for Year One of the project. 
Martha's Vineyard has its own island culture and the culture of the Brazilian families is 
embedded within this. I relocated for two important reasons. (1) Relocating has allowed 
me to maintain continuous contact with the families and the staff of the Head Start 
program, which would not have occurred if I commuted by ferry from the mainland to 
conduct the home visits. (2) It has also allowed me to have easy access to the families in 
the project; and to experience Island living as the project participants do, for example, 
shopping at the Brazilian store, meeting them with their friends in neighborhood shops, 
and participating, on occasion, in the Brazilian churches. 

Martha's Vineyard is an island resort community, 23 miles long and 9 miles wide, 
off the southeastern coast of Massachusetts. The year round population of the six towns 
incorporated on the island is approximately 16,000 (Ward, 2002). During the tourist 
season, the number of residents is multiplied several times, and is responsible for the 
above-described summer housing shortage. The only year-round commercially operated 
access to the mainland is either by ferry boat operated by the Steamship Authority or one 
of several Cessna aircraft operated by Cape Air from Martha's Vineyard Airport. Food, 
gas, heating oil, clothing, and other items are all more expensive to purchase on the island 



79 

than on the mainland due to shipping costs. In addition, during the tourist season it can 
be extremely difficult and expensive to reserve a space for a car on the ferry for trips to 
and from the mainland. 

Although housing is an ever present problem for many island residents, there are 
many jobs available at this time. The difference between conditions on the island from 
winter to summer is that in the winter, when there is little tourism, laborers employed by 
the tourism industry are without jobs. Although affordable housing is usually available 
during the winter, many families experience financial hardship, loneliness, and drug or 
alcohol abuse (Allis, 2002; Mazer, 1976). 

Head Start Contact 

Martha's Vineyard Community Services is the umbrella organization which 
sponsors a Head Start program, a day care center, a family center, a thrift shop, and many 
other services for children and families on Martha's Vineyard. The Head Start program is 
a home-based program in which Head Start families receive weekly visits from home 
visitors. During these visits, the Head Start home visitors provide services similar to 
those in a center-based Head Start program. The home visitors bring materials for art, 
music, and pre-literacy activities, such as making play-doh or collages, sorting colors and 
shapes, creating books with children, and many other activities. The Head Start home 
visitor, the parent(s) and the Head Start child participate together in these activities. 
There is also an opportunity to discuss parenting issues, and social service issues with the 
parents. 

In addition, the Head Start program offers monthly field trips, such as a visit to 
the firehouse or a local landscape nursery, for Head Start families. Parenting groups are 



80 

also offered to parents on a monthly basis. As part of my orientation to Head Start, I 
participated in a field trip to the Edgartown firehouse. This allowed parents to become 
familiar with me and gave me an opportunity to observe a head start group activity. 

Meeting with Head Start Staff 

Within a few days of my arrival on Martha's Vineyard, I met with Debbie Milne, 
the director of the Head Start program at Martha's Vineyard Community Services. The 
purpose of the visit was to explain the scope of the project for the year ahead and discuss 
how to involve staff and parents. At this initial meeting, we decided that the next step 
would be to meet with the home visitors who work with the Brazilian families and to 
explain the details of the project with them and to develop a plan to begin. 

The following week I met with these Head Start staff One of these home visitors 
is Brazilian. The others were Americans and did not speak Portuguese. However, 
fluency in Portuguese is not required of all home visitors for the Brazilian families 
because some of the parents and children speak English to varying degrees. Head Start 
has only one bilingual home visitor, a Brazilian social worker, who includes in her 
caseload only those families who do not speak English at all. 

I explained the purpose and scope of the project, including number of families 
needed, number of visits to be conducted, and that a stipend would be awarded to each 
family at the end of the project. The staff had many concerns and questions about the 
research. Maria, the Brazilian home visitor, seemed worried that the participants would 
be objectified by the research and/or by me, the researcher. The home visitors warned me 
that I might not really learn anything from the research and offered the following 
comments: (1) The Brazilians don't always tell the truth. Instead, they say what they 



81 

think you want to hear. (2) It is impossible to be unobtrusive in the home of a BraziUan. 
One home visitor commented that, "No matter how often you go, you will always be a 
visitor in their homes. They will never get used to you. You will always be special, and 
they always will want to go out of their way to show their hospitality and to show that 
you are welcome in their home." 

The Head Start staff advised that the families who did not speak English would be 
more likely to participate if they knew that I would help them with translations of 
documents or phone calls or other problems requiring English during my visit. They also 
suggested that if the parents understood that not all of the visits had to be in the home, but 
could be during other activities outside the home, such as shopping, or banking, they 
would be more likely to participate. This would also be less disruptive to the families' 
usual routine; and it would allow me to observe a more diverse range of family 
interactions. I gladly accepted both of these suggestions. 

We, then, developed a plan to introduce the project to the Brazilian Head Start 
families and to invite them to participate. Our strategy was to help relieve fears and 
concerns of the families to elicit their cooperation. We decided that first, the regular 
home visitors for the Brazilian families would tell them about the project, and the help I 
would be willing to give if they needed it. Second, I would accompany the regular home 
visitor to the next home visit of any family who had expressed interest. At that time, I 
would introduce myself and explain the project in detail, as well as the consent form. 
Families who chose to participate in the project would sign the consent form and we 
would schedule my next visit without the home visitor. All of my conversations were 
always initiated with the parents and children in my project in Portuguese. It is important 



82 

to note here that I only spoke English in those instances when replying to the parents or 
children who at times spoke to me in English. 

Since we could not predict how many families would be interested, we decided 
that if more than five (the limit for the study) were interested, then we would select the 
participants by lottery. We hoped that there would be at least five who would be 
interested. In the end we had exactly five families who chose to participate in the project. 
One final suggestion was that 1 participate in a Head Start field trip to the Fire Station as 
previously mentioned. 

Head Start Field Trip - Fire Station 

Head Start offers several group activities for parents and several field trips 
throughout the year in addition to the weekly home visits, and this field trip, which was 
for all Head Start families, American and Brazilian alike, became my first contact with 
the Head Start families. 

I arrived early with one of the American home visitors, Mary, and we began by 
setting up a space for us to meet with one of the firefighters. A short time later, Maria, the 
Brazilian home visitor, and two Brazilian families arrived together. Everyone sat 
together in a big circle on the floor. Maria and the Brazilians sat together in one place in 
the circle so that Maria was able to translate everything that the firefighter said to the 
children and parents. At first, she (the firefighter) did not seem to be aware of the 
Brazilian children raising their hands, wanting to answer her questions. Maria helped 
them get her attention, and after that the firefighter made it a point to include the 
Brazilian as well as the American children in the discussion. It is possible that because 
they were speaking in a different language she did not "hear" their words until she 



83 

became aware that they were not speaking EngUsh and she consciously focused on 
Ustening to them so that they would not be excluded. 

Maria encouraged the Brazilian children to participate, because they seemed shyer 
than the other children. But once they knew that it was all right to jump into the cab of 
the ladder truck, they were happy to take their turns to sit at the wheel. 

At one point, a grandmother of one of the Brazilian children noticed me, and said 
she thought she knew me. Then Maria introduced us, and we chatted about Brazil and 
the US. 

This field trip gave me the chance to let my presence be known to the Brazilians, 
at least one of whom remembered me when I later went to his home. It also gave me the 
chance to overcome my own fears that I might find that my Portuguese was not as good 
as I though it was. I was glad to see that my Portuguese was fine, and that I had no 
problem communicating with the Brazilian parents and grandparent who were present. 

Project Recruitment 

Following the meetings and field trip the Head Start home visitors explained the 
project to the Brazilian parents during regular home visits and asked the parents if they 
were interested in participating, as planned. Five parents expressed an interest in learning 
more about the project and possibly participating. As we agreed, I then accompanied 
each Head Start home visitor to her assigned families who had expressed interest in the 
project. 

I met privately with parents from each of these families for approximately one 
hour to explain the project in detail. I explained what would happen during home visits, 
that we would arrange visits at a time that was mutually agreeable to both of us, that 



84 

during some visits I would interview the parents, but during most of the visits I would sit 
quietly and observe the children, and that some visits could take place in other settings 
that were part of the family's daily routine, such as shops, post office, etc. 

I explained that I would be conducting a study to learn about how children learn 
at home when the language is different from the dominant language of the culture. I tried 
carefully not to offend or give parents the idea that their literacy level was being 
scrutinized or that they needed to show off their literacy activities for me and, therefore, 
did not use that term with them. I explained that I would visit the home ten to fifteen 
times during the period of the project. I also explained that the family would receive a 
stipend of $300 for participating in the project, and that the funds were being provided by 
the Head Start Research Scholar Grant. 

I explained the content of the consent form then gave it to the parent to read. I 
suggested that they take some time to think about it and sign it later to give them time to 
think over what might be an intrusive process for their entire families. Four of the five 
mothers signed immediately. One wanted to discuss it with her husband who was not 
present. However, she set an appointment for me to begin the home visits. At the time of 
this first meeting, all five of the mothers scheduled an appointment for me to return. 

Data Collection and Analysis 

In this section I will discuss the procedures for data collection employed in this 
study so that other researchers may conduct a similar study if they wish to follow this 
pattern of research, and also to provide a background for my research and greater 
understanding of my conclusions. 



85 

The data of my research included observations of the literacy practices in the day- 
to-day lives of the families in my study, as recorded in my field notes. Their voices were 
heard through the interviews, and the stories they told provide additional context and 
understanding to those field notes. Because the methods of data collection and analysis 
for in-home observations and for parent interviews differed, I will discuss the methods 
and procedures for each separately. 

In-Home Observations 

The field research procedures employed for the observations of this ethnographic 
study were similar to those used by Purcell-Gates (1996), Taylor (1983) and Taylor and 
Dorsey-Gaines (1988) in their studies of literacy practices within the home environment. 
Virtually all aspects of the daily lives of the families were of interest to me in the early 
stages of the research. It was my intention that by the setting of such broad boundaries 
the data-gathering process would not be distorted or restricted by any preconceived 
notions of literacy events in the home. 

I conducted an average often home visits per family during the course of the 
study. Home visits lasted from one to two hours and were scheduled to take place at 
times when the parents could conveniently be available. Although I attempted to 
schedule home visits to accommodate the availability of the entire family, this proved to 
be impossible due to the varied schedules of the family members. The parents in the 
study all worked more than one job, frequently on swing shifts. Typically parents had 
arranged to alternate their schedules in order to ensure child care for the focal child. In 
one family, both parents worked every day and evening and the focal child was 
frequently in the care of his grandmother. During those home visits I recorded the 



86 

interactions between the focal child and the grandmother. 

Because of this limited availability of parents, I chose to schedule home visits at 
the convenience of the parents. In some cases this meant that it frequently could occur 
only during certain hours of the day. However, during the course of the study, I was able 
to see families at several different times of the day and different days of the week, 
including week-ends. 

Home visits for the purpose of observing literacy events involving the focal child 
extended over a period of six months. Field notes from these observations include maps 
and drawings of the setting showing the placement of the parents and children; 
descriptions of the activities taking place; a record of interactions indicating what parts of 
the conversations were in English or in Portuguese or both; description of who was 
present and/or involved in the activity; descriptions of the toys and books in use during 
the visit; description of the use and language of television viewed, if any; and description 
of the use, amount, placement, and types of printed matter in the home. 

Following the procedures of other researchers who have studied uses of language 
(Heath, 1983) or literacy (Purcell-Gates, 1996; Taylor, 1983; Taylor and Dorsey-Gaines, 
1988; and Teale, 1986) in the home, I noted and recorded all materials in open view in 
the home that were related to literacy, including such items as books, printed notices, 
bills, signs, environmental print on household products, television guides, and writing 
materials. I also noted in my observations conversations that occurred about literacy 
related activities, such as an inquiry by the parent about what the child did in school that 
day. In addition, literacy events engaged in by family members on excursions outside of 
the home, such as paying bills by check, reading labels during grocery shopping, or 



87 

filling out a form to be on a waiting list for a post office box were also recorded. 

Families were encouraged not to do anything "special" for the visit. In more than 
one case, the parents left the room or even the home, and used me as a child care 
provider, while they attended to other needs. I made no attempt to interfere with this, 
because I concluded that they would not have left me or anyone alone with their child 
unless they (1) trusted and felt comfortable leaving their child with me, and (2) did not 
find anything unusual about leaving their child in the care of a friend. In fact, I felt 
pleased that the parents trusted me and felt comfortable with me. Also, as I learned later 
through observations and interviews, these families were very accustomed to sharing 
care-giving responsibilities with extended family (relatives and friends), and I accepted 
this as a normal part of their culture. 

One aim of the initial visits was to allow the families to become familiar with the 
research process and comfortable about my presence. When the family members no 
longer treated me as a visitor and I had ascertained that performance behaviors for my 
benefit had subsided, the subsequent field notes were treated as real data. Like, Purcell- 
Gates (1996), I found that it took fi"om two to five visits, depending on the family, for this 
getting-acquainted period. As an observer in the home, my goal was to be unobtrusive, 
interfering as little as possible with the normal activities of the families during the 
observation periods. In my in-home observations I attempted to be the proverbial fly on 
the wall, hoping that the participants would either forget my presence altogether, or 
perhaps begin to consider my presence as "normal". 

Results for the in-home observations were derived firom analysis of the data 
entered in Excel spreadsheets. This data was analyzed for types of literacy events. 



88 

domains, participant structure and language. My intent was to determine frequencies, 
means, and standard deviations for literacy events observed, and to examine this data for 
differences and similarities observed in these families. I, therefore, calculated sums, 
means, and standard deviation for events and domains, as previously coded. According 
to Sirkin (1999), measures of dispersion, or variability, i.e. standard deviation, enable us 
to see the clustering of scores among participants. The standard deviation gives an 
indication of the amount each score deviates from the mean. In other words, it indicates 
what would be considered an average amount of deviation from the mean in the sample. 

Literacy Events 

Building upon the work of Teale (1986) and Purcell-Gates (1996), I coded the 
literacy events by social domain. Both Teale and Purcell-Gates found that all the literacy 
events recorded could be categorized into the following domains: 

1 . daily living routines — shopping, cooking, paying bills, getting items 
repaired, traveling from place to place; 

2. entertainment — reading rules for games, crossword puzzles, reading a 
novel, reading print on TV, reading movie ads; 

3 . school-related activities — school communications, homework, playing 
school, reading school lunch menus; 

4. work — literacy for performing one's actual job or for securing or 
maintaining a job; 

5. religion — Bible reading, Bible study guides, reading pamphlets brought 
home from church or Sunday school, reading Bible stories, reading prayer 
books, singing hymns; 



89 

6. interpersonal communication — sending cards, writing and reading letters; 

7. participating in an information network — reading to gain information; 

8. story time — reading a story and/or book to a child, telling a story to a 
child, enacting a story to a child; 

9. literacy for the sake of teaching/learning literacy — helping another person 
learn to read and write (other than homework). 

The field notes were initially searched for literacy events in these domains. For 
example, an event in which a focal child brought out a dictionary to show to the 
researcher was coded as "showing." In another event a child occupied herself by writing 
the names of family members on a pad of paper. This was entered into the field 
"writing." An instance in which a child explained the close captions on a Pinocchio 
video was coded as "talking." 

However, a search was also conducted to find new domains. Since this is an ESL 
population emigrated from another country, one of the purposes of the study was to 
discover and document other literacy enhancing practices, which may be less common in 
English-as-first-language families than in these families. 

Thus, I added four new domains: coloring (as in a coloring book or workbook), 
copying (letters and or words from a book or paper), singing, and showing (events in 
which the focal child "showed someone else" a print related article). I also added a 
domain "observed print items" in which I enumerated print items that were observable in 
the home during the visit. 

Following the establishment of the codes, all field note data was coded according 
to domains. Each identified literacy activity was entered into a database indicating the 



90 

specific literacy event, as well as identifying the domain of that literacy event. Each 
event also was coded as to the language used (English, Portuguese, or mixed English and 
Portuguese), as well as the participant structure, such as focal child-mother, focal child - 
grandmother, etc. 

Using the Excel spreadsheet, I calculated totals for domain, participant structure, 
and language for each literacy event involving the focal children. I then sorted the data, 
which I had originally entered chronologically by home vish. 1 sorted each spreadsheet 
using a primary sort for "domain" and a secondary sort for either "language" or 
"participant structure." This meant that each domain was automatically organized 
according to clusters of either the language use or the participant structure, as required. 
This allowed me to simply count the occurrences in each cluster and then enter them into 
a database for analysis. See figures A through C for illustrations of these spreadsheets. 

Using SPSS data analysis software, I created two databases. In the first I recorded 
the total number of literacy events observed for each focal child. In the second I recorded 
the total number of domains of literacy events for each child. See figures D and E for 
samples of the SPSS data editor showing the data entered by case (focal child), numbered 
1 through 5. Using SPSS, I retrieved the sums, means, and standard deviations for the 
data related to the domains and literacy events for each family. 



Figure A: Portion of unsorted EXCEL database of literacy events for one focal child, 
Rosa. Events are listed chronologically by visit number. 





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96 
Participant Structure 

At the time of observations, I also had recorded the participants involved in each 
activity. In some cases, the child was involved in a literacy event alone, that is, the focal 
child was not interacting w^ith anyone around the literacy event^. These configurations 
are labeled "focal child alone". In other cases the focal child interacted with me, the 
researcher, in a literacy event. These are noted as "focal child with researcher" ^. 

Each coded literacy event entered into the database was also coded to indicate the 
participant structure for that event. The participant structures noted at the time of the 
observations consisted of the following: 

1 . focal child alone (with researcher as silent observer) 

2. focal child and father 

3 . focal child and Head Start home visitor 

4. focal child and Head Start home visitor and father 

5. focal child and Head Start home visitor and mother 

6. focal child and mother 

7. focal child and mother and researcher 

8. focal child and mother and sibling 

9. focal child and researcher 

Q 

10. focal child and researcher and ESL tutor 

1 1 . focal child and sibling 



6 



In this configuration, the researcher was present, but only as a silent observer and did not interact with the 
focal child. No one else was present. 

' In this configuration, the researcher interacted with the focal child 

* Augusto's parents had a Literacy Volunteer of America tutor who came to their home to teach them 
English as a second language. 



97 

12. researcher and mother and father (in presence of focal child) 

13. father alone (in presence of focal child) 

14. father and researcher (in presence of focal child) 

15. grandmother and family friend (in presence of focal child) 

16. mother and father (in presence of focal child) 

17. mother and researcher (in presence of focal child) 

18. mother and sibling (in presence of focal child) 

I suspected that the influence of a parent would be important whether the parent 
was interacting directly with the focal child around a literacy event or acting with another 
individual around a literacy event, but in the presence of the focal child. This is because 
children of three and four years old, the ages of the children in my study, would be likely 
to have access to adults in their home only if the parents were somehow involved in 
arranging or approving it. In the instance of a parent interacting directly with focal child 
around a literacy event, the parent might be scaffolding the child's literacy development. 
In the case of a parent engaged in a literacy event with someone else in the presence of 
the focal child, the parent would be modeling the literacy event as well as its importance. 

Since the purpose of coding for participant structure was to have a better 
understanding of the ways in which language and literacy might be influenced by parents, 
siblings, and other adults in these households, I decided that the eighteen configurations 
for participant structure could be merged into six: 

1 . focal child with father 

2. focal child with mother 

3. focal child with sibling 



98 



4. focal child with other adult. 

5. focal child alone 

6. focal child with researcher 

For example, the eight instances in which the mother interacted with the focal 
child or with someone else in the presence of the focal child (focal child and Head Start 
home visitor and mother, focal child and mother, focal child and mother and researcher, 
focal child and mother and sibling, researcher and mother and father in presence of focal 
child, mother and father in presence of focal child, mother and researcher in presence of 
focal child, mother and sibling in presence of focal child) could be merged into one 
category of participant structure called "mother with or in the presence of focal child". 
Using this same logic, I merged the remaining categories involving "father", "sibling", 
and the myriad of adults who were sometimes present or involved with the focal child. I 
did not change "focal child alone" or "focal child with researcher". 

With the EXCEL databases sorted for participant structure, I calculated 
frequencies of the participant structure by domain and entered and the totals into the 
SPSS data editor for further analysis. Figure F shows a portion of this data editor. 



99 



Figure F: Section of SPSS data editor siiowing total number of occurrences of domains of 
literacy events by participant structure. 



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100 



Language Usage 

In this same EXCEL database the language in which the Hteracy event took place 
was also recorded with either "E" for English, "P" for Portuguese, or "E+P" for a 
bilingual mixture of English and Portuguese. Some events, such as silently coloring, 
drawing, or activities involving printed numbers, did not have a language recorded. In 
cases in which these activities also included talking, the language was recorded for the 
activity "talking about" a literacy event. Thus children might silently draw or color and 
then explain what they had created in English, Portuguese or a mixture of both English 
and Portuguese. The event, "'coloring" would not be coded for language use. However 
the event, "talking about" the coloring activity would be. 

Following the procedure described above, I calculated frequencies for language 
use by domain in the EXCEL database and transferred the totals into the SPSS data 
editor. In order to analyze by language, I broke each domain into three fields according to 
the language used during the activity(ies) for that domain. For example, the domain, 
"entertainment" became: "English entertainmenf , "Portuguese entertainmenf , and 
"Bilingual entertainment", depending on whether the language used was English, 
Portuguese, or bilingual in both English and Portuguese. This allowed me to quickly 
view the language used by domain for each focal child. See figure G for a sample of the 
SPSS data editor showing the language usage by domain. 



101 



Figure G: Section of SPSS data editor showing totals for language use by domain. 



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102 



English Language Proficiency of Focal Children and Parents 
After reviewing and analyzing the data as described above, I decided to add a new 
category that would address the language proficiency of the focal children and their 
parents. It could be important to know if there were any correlations between English 
language 

proficiency of either the adults or the focal children and any of the literacy events or their 
domains. If it appeared that English language proficiency facilitated access to resources 
supportive of the learning and/or development of the children in this study, this would be 
important to know. 

Since the scope of my research did not include formal or standardized English 
language proficiency assessments of either the focal children or their parents, I decided to 
construct a simple scale, based on the need for an interpreter (me) or the need for 
Portuguese to be used in speaking with families during my home visits. Therefore I 
added two fields, "English ability of focal child" (eng_fc) and "English ability of parent" 
(eng__pare) to each of the databases, using the following scale: 

1 - needs interpreter for all communication 

2 = needs interpreter for some communication 

3 = needs interpreter for occasional communication 

4 = Does not need an interpreter for communication 

I scaled the English proficiency of the parents and children, based on my 
observations and conversations with them, and their comments regarding their English 
ability made during the parent interviews and entered them into the SPSS data editor. For 
the field "English proficiency of parent" I entered one scale, based on the parent that I 



103 



had observed to have the greater level of proficiency. I did this for two reasons: (1)1 
assumed that the highest level of English proficiency of either parent would increase 
access of the entire family to the resources and benefits available in the mainstream 
American culture, and (2) in some families I had access to only one parent during the 
project. In this same data editor, I included three additional fields to represent the total 
number of events in English (English), in Portuguese (portugue), or in English and 
Portuguese (eng_port). This allowed me to see at once the frequencies of language used 
and the English proficiency of the parents and focal children. See figure H for an 
illustration of the English Proficiency data editor. 

Figure H: SPSS data editor showing language proficiency and language use by 
participants. 



C:\Documents and Settings\Sharon\My Documents\SPSS\dissertation\language use.sav 





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104 



Participant Interviews 

Researchers have stressed the importance of cuhure, personal history, and home 
environment when understanding how Uteracy develops (Heath, 1983; Camitta, 1997; 
Taylor, 1983; Teale, 1986; Akroyd, 1995; Purcell-Gates, 1996, 1997; Switzer, 1999). 
Therefore, in addition to the observations of the literacy events recorded in my field 
notes, I also conducted interviews in Portuguese with the parents of the focal children. 
Through the interviews I sought to gain a rich perspective and narrative from my 
participants. These interviews were more than mere surveys for information. They 
required a process in which I was required to "conceptualize the project, gain access and 
contact with participants, interview them, transcribe data, translate the data, and analyze 
the data" (Seidman, 1991, p. 6). 

Following the advice of the Head Start staff, the initial visits were conducted to 
interview the mothers. This was done so that they would have a chance to get to know 
me and feel more comfortable with me during the observations. At the time of the 
interviews, I explained that I would be using two tape recorders, in case one failed. I 
arranged the two small tape recorders about six inches apart fi-om each other so that the 
tape recorder would not record each other's noise. I placed these on a hard surface, 
usually a table, between the two of us. I explained that I wanted to record our 
conversation, that I would ask some questions, but that I wanted them to feel firee to just 
tell me their stories. Then I began the tape, and we began our conversation. 

I conducted semi-structured interviews so that I could guide the conversation, 
using open-ended questions, without limiting their responses. I chose to direct the taped 



105 

conversations around the following three themes: (1) How do you see your role as your 
child's first and most important teacher? (2) What barriers and challenges have you and 
your family experienced through the immigration process that you believe might impact 
your child's development? and (3) What hopes and dreams do you have for your child's 
future? 

I did not know in advance of our interviews what topics these questions might 
lead to in our conversations; but, whatever it was, I wanted the participants to feel free to 
speak their mind on the topic. I kept a pad of paper on my lap during the interviews, to 
make note of any significant gestures or other body language that might be important 
when listening to the tapes. However, I took few notes. Once the conversations began, I 
found myself absorbed in their narratives. 

As described above conversational interviews with family members were audio- 
recorded and questions pertaining to literacy were unobtrusively embedded within the 
more general discussion of everyday family life. This data added another dimension to 
the analysis of the multiple contexts in which children are exposed to literacy practices in 
their home. 

All of the parent interviews were conducted in Portuguese, either in whole or in 
part, depending on the preference of the parents. Tape recordings of the interviews were 
transcribed in Portuguese by a bilingual Brazilian transcriptionist with experience 
working with families of preschool children. This was to ensure that nuances of 
meaning, idiom, and intonation were captured correctly. 

Once I received the Portuguese transcripts of the interviews, I translated them into 
English. This was followed by a review of my translations by a bilingual American-bom 



106 

translator with a Brazilian family. I, then, reviewed the suggested revisions and 
compared them with the original Portuguese transcripts, and I adjusted the translation 
where necessary. The transcripts were then ready for coding. Copies of the transcripts in 
Portuguese have been kept, to permit comparison of the taped interview with the 
transcript for accuracy, in the event that doubts arise. I made the final decision regarding 
the final wording of the transcripts. 

Although the interviews were guided by themes which I had pre-selected, their 
structure was much more like a conversation, rather than a survey. Under the guidance of 
the "Research on Human Subjects" committee at Lesley University, I had taken great 
care to ensure that the participants would not feel exploited or pressured in any way. 
However I found that, instead of being hesitant, the parents I interviewed seemed eager to 
tell their stories. 

At the first meeting, on which I was accompanied by the Head Start home visitor, 
I did not use the tape recorder. Instead, I took the opportunity to establish a relationship 
with the parents. My purpose was to allow the informants to know me and to this end I 
shared my personal story of my connection to and love for Brazil. 

I allowed the parents to choose the visit at which I would record our interviews. 
In four cases, this was scheduled to take place at my first solo visit to the home. In the 
case of Janaina's mother, she was too busy to sit down with me until the fourth visit, and 
she requested that I not tape our interview. I obliged and took notes during our 
conversation. At a later home visit, her husband, Eduardo was home and he seemed very 
interested in what I was doing. After answering all of his questions, I asked if I might 
tape an interview with him. He gladly agreed. Thus, it was that I taped interviews with 



107 

four mothers and one father. Through careful probes and silences, I encouraged my 
informants to speak to my questions, to broach new topics or delve more deeply into 
existing ones (Merriam, 1988). 

The taped interviews lasted from one to two hours each. Using the constant 
comparative method (see Glaser and Strauss, 1967), I began analyzing and reflecting on 
the field notes from observations, as well as the data from interviews, from the first 
contact with families. The constant comparative method is a technique whereby analyses 
and comparisons of data from observations, interviews, or existing documentation 
continuously occur, simultaneously and cyclically leading to the development of themes, 
domains, and properties to guide the research from its early stages (see Glaser and 
Strauss, 1967 for a more complete discussion of the constant comparative method). 

I began to identify domains and themes and relate them to those of existing 
literature. Using this as a guide, I gradually refined the domains of interest to those 
which appeared to be most compelling based on both the data received and the existing 
research and theory (see Merriam, 1988). Using Spradley's processes of domain analysis, 
taxonomic analysis, and componential analysis I continued to refine, define, and redefine 
domains (Spradley, 1979) in the following manner. 

(1) I selected a single domain to analyze (e.g., challenges); (2) searched for 
similarities in the included terms in order to define subsets (e.g., problems, difficulties, 
hardships, barriers); (3) searched for included terms that belong in these subsets (e.g., 
loneliness, homesickness, loss, isolation, pain, suffering, sadness). This led to the 
development of a new domain, isolation, which previously, was an included term, for the 
domain challenges (4). After following this procedure, to identify several domains, I 



108 

searched again to determine if any of these identified domains was really a subset of 
another domain; (5) Finally, I corrected and adjusted the final taxonomy (Spradley, 
1979). 

Even before the translation procedure, I reviewed the transcripts in Portuguese to 
gain early insight into the direction of the research. Using the constant comparative 
method, and with the assistance of the qualitative data analysis software, QSR NUD*IST, 
I searched for themes from the observations, interviews, and other documentation (news 
articles, demographic information, local histories, etc.). I began to identify promising 
themes to explore. Thus, early on, the participant narratives, in concert with my field 
notes, began to portray a group of families struggling to overcome not only obstacles of 
isolation, loneliness, and financial difficulties similar to many American families, but 
also attempting to navigate the waters of the American social, cultural, and educational 
system without the understanding and knowledge that comes with years of experience in 
the American mainstream culture. And in some cases, without the linguistic ability in 
English to even begin to learn such things. 

In my initial searches for themes, I first coded the data from the interviews into 74 
words or concepts that were used in the interviews. Because the lexicon of the 
participants was in Portuguese, and I coded and prepared my research results in English, I 
created the terms for the domains in English. Thus, they are analytic domains (Spradley, 
1979), created based on my analysis of the translated transcripts. 

Once the initial data had been placed into these early domains, I began to compare 
the domains looking for those that overlapped or were subdomains. I then examined 
these domains for similarities and eventually merged the original 74 concepts into ten 



109 

general domains. They were: hardships, extended family, languages, employment, 
happiness, Brazil, legal issues, USA, literacy development, and home life. As data 
continued to flow, I continued to search for relationships among these domains. As I 
continued to examine the data, I refined the domains to those which appeared most 
relevant to the literacy development of the children in the study and to what immigration- 
related challenges might affect this development, since these were my original research 
questions. 

Spradley advocates for distinguishing and defining domains and relationships 
among them, and contrasts among them (Spradley, 1979). Eventually I chose thirteen 
domains that I considered to be significant in understanding the context in which the 
literacy practices in the home took place. Some of these themes were interrelated. 
However, I decided that each was worthy of a separate discussion. These themes were: 

1. Why they left Brazil 

2. Jobs, work, and employment 

3. Better life in America 

4. Brazilin family relationships 

5. Challenges of immigration 

6. Isolation 

7. Changes and cultural differences 

8. Brazilian children in American 

9. Homesickness for Brazil 

10. Head start support 

1 1 . Challenge of limited English proficiency 



110 

12. Learning English 

13. Education and literacy 

The reason for the theme, Education and literacy was that it was most relevant to 
my research. The reason that I chose the other themes is that I wanted to capture the 
situations, the background, and context in which these children are developing literacy 
and I decided that all of these themes together would best provide a picture of this 
context. 

Summary 

The purpose of the data analysis was to develop a broad description of the many 
and varied literacy practices found in the home of these ESL families. The combination 
of field notes from observations of literacy events, participant structures, and interviews 
enabled me to create a richly informative narrative of the experiences of the children in 
these families regarding literacy practices. A separate file was maintained for each 
family to permit the development of a detailed, in-depth description of the styles and 
personal biographies of the individuals involved. This provided an understanding of the 
ways in which the children themselves initiate, absorb, and synthesize the educational 
literacy influences in their lives. 

Through this combination of data, a picture of these families emerged that will 
enlarge our understanding of the learning styles and social support systems of these 
young Brazilian immigrant children, as they develop their language and literacy skills 
through their family interactions. At the same time, I have developed an account that will 
address the ways that schools could build supportive environments in which such 
children could interact more successfully in schools. 



Ill 

This data has not only provided a deeper understanding of the Brazilian families 
involved in the Martha's Vineyard Head Start program, enabling them to provide better- 
quality services for the children, but may also contribute to present and future research of 
literacy events in other ESL families with young children. 

Because of the emerging nature of the data, which was embedded in the 
interviews, domains for analysis were identified cyclically rather than sequentially. 
Through this process I repeatedly examined the original quotations, along with my field 
notes and reflections to define, refine, and define again domains, themes, patterns, and 
my reflections as new field notes to combine with the data. Using this constant 
comparative method (Spradley, 1979) I developed a plethora of data during the course of 
the in home observation and interview period. During the period of further writing and 
analysis, I continually gathered more data from existing literature, in particular, 
newspaper articles, publications, and internet websites that provided a broader context for 
the lives of the Brazilian community on Martha's Vineyard. Thus, through all of the 
methods and procedures described in this chapter, I have addressed the research 
questions: (1) What are the in-home communicative practices of a group of five Brazilian 
immigrant Head Start families? and (2) What cultural and socioeconomic 
factors might influence those communicative practices. 



112 
Chapter V: Description of Context and Participants 

Introduction 

In order to introduce the participants to the reader, this section provides a brief 
profile of each of the five famiHes who took part in the study, as well as an overview of 
the community in which they live. The family profiles have been developed based on the 
information obtained during interviews and home visit observations. They include 
characteristics such as gender, age, and length of time in U.S., as well as descriptions of 
their lives as I observed them during my visits. The description of the Brazilian 
Community on Martha's Vineyard is based on census data, existing literature as cited, and 
my own experiences and observations living in the commimity. Names of the participants 
are all fictitious in order to ensure anonymity. 

All of the participants in this study were Head Start participants, living on the 
island of Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. The length of time parents had been in this 
country when the project began varied, ranging from ten years to six months. Thus some 
parents had lived in this country for some time prior to the birth of the focal child. Others 
had arrived more recently, bringing their children with them from Brazil. 

The focal children of the study were those enrolled in the Head Start program. 
Four of the five Head Start children were females. Four of the five were four years old at 
the time of the observations and interviews. Four of them had siblings either older or 
younger, and one sibling was bom during the period of home visits. Because all of the 
families qualified for Head Start by income eligibility, they all would be considered of 
low socioeconomic status by the standards of the local community. However, as was 
discovered during the parent interviews, this was not necessarily true of these families 



113 

when they lived in Brazil. In fact they had gone to great expense in order to finance their 
emigration to the U.S. The costs to complete the necessary documentation plus travel 
expenses could easily rise to thousands of dollars. The high cost of immigration would 
prevent the very poor Brazilians from emigrating. Two of the families were Catholic, 
two were members of the Assembly of God church, an evangelical Christian sect, and 
one professed no religious affiliation. All of the participants in this study were year- 
round residents of Martha's Vineyard. 

Martha's Vineyard Cultural and Historic Background 

Martha's Vineyard is a triangularly-shaped island of approximately 100 square 
miles situated seven miles off the southeast coast of Massachusetts (Ward, 2002). 
Although it is the largest island resort in New England, it continues to maintain a rural 
character. 

It is widely accepted that the native tribe of Wampanoags were the first 
inhabitants of Martha's Vineyard, possibly as long as 5,000 years ago (Ward, 2002). 
Some historians believe that Martha's Vineyard was the "Vinland" settled by the Lief 
Erickson and his Norse comrades in 1003 (Mayhew, 1966). More settlers from the Old 
World arrived in 1602 (Mayhew, 1966), and found the island inhabited by these Indians 
who survived by fishing, whaling, farming, and hunting (Mayhew, 1966). The 
Wampanoags continue to reside on the island. 

It was the European settlers who named the island for its lush growth of 
grapevines (Mayhew, 1966). However it was not until 1630, after the arrival of the 
Pilgrims at Plymouth, that Martha's Vineyard began to be permanently settled by newly 
arrived Europeans (Mayhew, 1966). Martha'sVineyard remained an important whaling 



114 

center in the 1 8th and 1 9th centuries; and the period between the War of 1 8 1 2 and the 
Civil war was considered the golden age of whaling (Mayhew, 1966). Later settlers 
included African Americans who originally were drawn by camp meeting revivals for 
Baptists and Methodists in the mid- 19th century (Mayhew, 1966). These camp meetings 
which were religious revivals occurring each summer were also the beginning of 
Martha's Vineyard as a summer resort. By 1859 Camp Meeting had grown to 12,000 
visitors making it the largest in the world (Mayhew, 1966). In time the tents were 
transformed into intricately laced Victorian cottages, and this marked the beginning of 
real estate development on the island. 

Portuguese immigrants, principally from the Azores arrived in the 19th century to 
bolster the whaling industry (Santos, 2002). These Portuguese immigrants eventually 
established themselves as fishermen and whaling captains, and many of their descendants 
still live on the island. 

During the tourist season, Martha's Vineyard is a bustling, crowded community 
with a population of over a 100,000, as compared to a year-round population of 15,000. 
The economy of Martha's Vineyard rests primarily on the tourist industry during the 
months from April to October. Although this provides an abundance of employment 
opportunities for unskilled laborers, it has also contributed to the high cost of housing. In 
addition to the demand for service jobs in restaurants and hotels, the large influx of 
tourists gives rise to housing-related industries, such as construction and landscaping. 

The island's heritage as an untouched rural landscape, free from the bustle of the 
mainland, has led to its development as a resort. It is this very development and growth 
that threatens its unique position as an oasis of calm and sedate living that makes it so 



115 

desirable as a place to visit. The increasing year-round population as well as the 
increasing tourist population brings with it demands to increase the infrastructure of the 
island to accommodate the needs for housing, health care, education, and other needs of 
residents and visitors. The increased growth of the summer population requires a cadre 
of laborers willing to perform the housekeeping, restaurant service, landscaping, and 
housing construction needs of this population. At the same time, this cadre of laborers 
necessary to support the tourism industry becomes underemployed or unemployed during 
the off season, leading to greater demands for social service support. The Brazilian 
workers form a large part of these laborers. Some simply move away during the off- 
season, but many of those with children who require stability and education stay during 
the off-season when they can live comfortably in the housing that is more available at 
that time. 

Thus Martha's Vineyard has long included a diverse population in its six 
communities. The most recent influx of immigrants is Brazilians who first began to move 
to the island in the early 1990's. They have come as part of a larger migration of 
Brazilians who have been settling in Massachusetts and adjacent areas since the 1980's 
(Martes, 2000; Sales, 1999; Margolis, 1993). 

"Close to a half-million Brazilians have immigrated to the United States in recent 
years. Most choose to settle in the northeastern states, where there are established 
Brazilian communities" (Dragan, 2002). The number of Portuguese-speaking immigrants 
in the US is increasing, with clusters concentrated in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, 
Connecticut, New Jersey, and California. The number of Brazilians in the US is 



116 

unknown; however, the Brazilian consulate in Boston, Massachusetts, estimates that there 
are approximately 150,000 Brazilians in New England alone. 

They were drawn to the Southeastern Massachusetts area because this is an area 
that had been originally settled by Portuguese immigrants in the 19th century (see also 
Martes, 2000) and they came to this area with the expectation of finding some familiarity 
in culture and language. This Brazilian immigration has been propelled by economic 
problems in Brazil, which include unemployment and inflation. Brazilians have been 
emigrating to improve their financial situation, and they have been moving not only to 
the U.S., but also to Japan, where they are called "dekasseguis" (Sasaki, 1999). This flow 
of Brazilians away from Brazil reverses Brazil's history role as receiver of immigrants 
from Europe, the Middle East, and Japan (Ribeiro, 2000). 

Brazilian Cultural and Historic Background 

Americans who wish to understand Brazilians need to understand something 
about how Brazilian history differs from American history. We Americans have a 
tendency to relate to others from the perspective of our own historical and political past. 
We use this as a standard to judge those of other cultures, and we are at best puzzled, and 
at worst, intolerant or bigoted, when we see behaviors that we do not understand. It is 
important, therefore, to briefly describe some differences between American and 
Brazilian culture and history. In this section I will very briefly touch on some important 
points related to Brazilian history. I will overtly skip major historical information. My 
intention is to portray why Brazil today is both a country of great wealth (the world's 
ninth economy), covering a vast expansion of land (fifth in size in the world), but with 
the largest disparity between rich and poor. 



117 

Brazilians are a unique people who have evolved out of their own diverse history. 
While the United Stares was populated by Anglos who "transplanted" their culture to 
North America, Brazil has developed a new culture which was bom of the interweaving 
of Portuguese, African, and indigenous tribes of Brazil (Ribeiro, 2000). 

The Brazilian government itself, particularly during the repressive period of the 
60's and early 70's, encouraged strong civic pride in Brazil as a way to unify the 
population. Brazilians are proud of their unique identity, their vast natural resources, 
their booming population, and the belief that, "Brazilian teamwork is more effective than 
individual effort" (Grupo da Educacao Moral e Civica, 1 999, according to excerpts from 
material used at the secondary school level, and also handed out to newspaper magazine 
offices in 1973). This, in part, has contributed to a strong sense of nationalism, even 
xenophobia (Ribeiro, 2000). Brazil's culture is neither Portuguese nor Hispanic, and 
Brazilians are likely to be offended by those who choose to lump them with either of 
these cultures. Because Brazilians feel their strong sense of singularity, it is extremely 
difficult for them to "accept and enjoy life among other peoples" and as immigrants in 
other countries, they cling fanatically "to their identity as Brazilians" (Ribeiro, 2000). 

Brazil was discovered in 1500 by the Portuguese explorer, Pedro Cabral, and to 
this day, Brazil is the only country in the hemisphere that commemorates this, instead of 
Columbus' voyage in 1492 (Levine and Crocitti, 1999). At that time the English and 
French began exploring eastern North America. The Spaniards were conquering the rest 
of South America and what is now the western and southeast areas of the United States. 
In North America the colonists, many of whom had immigrated to safeguard their right to 
freedom of religion, were working to develop a democratic way of life. For example, in 



118 

1619 colonists in Virginia founded the House of Burgesses, the first representative 
legislature in America, in order to ensure individual liberty. 

Unlike that of North America, the distribution of the land of South America was 
peaceably settled in advance of hs "discovery" by the Treaty of Tordesillas. This treaty 
established a boundary whereby all land to the east would belong to Portugal, and all land 
to the West would belong to Spain. Thus an adversarial history of battles, wars, 
negotiations and treaties to establish control of the land was not a part of Brazil's history. 
Both Spain and Portugal accepted this treaty peacefully. 

In the mid- 16th century, the Portuguese king decided the distribution of land in 
Brazil. All Brazilian land was divided into "donatorios" and given to various friends of 
the Portuguese king. They, in turn, were responsible to defend and to develop the land. 
This was the beginning of a system in which a select few families would control the land 
cind wealth of Brazil and in which indigenous and African slaves supplied the labor. 

In the U.S. control of the land was the center of long-standing struggles between 
settlers and indigenous tribes who fought valiantly for the land. Finally, the Homestead 
Act of 1862 also ensured that the U.S. frontier would be settled by the individual 
"common" normative landowner who would be rewarded for his labors by land 
ownership. 

The Colonial period in Brazil, which saw the rise of the triangular slave trade to 
support the sugar plantations, gave way to the Brazilian empire. During the Colonial 
period marked the opening of commerce to other countries besides Portugal. The 
discovery of gold and diamonds and the gold rush which followed (1690-1800) attracted 
new inmiigrants from Portugal. After the growth spurred on by gold and diamonds. 



119 

Brazil's coffee-growing and trade further enhanced the development of Brazil. 

When the monarchy of Portugal fled to Brazil in 1 808 in order to escape the 
advancing army of Napoleon, Brazil became the seat of Portuguese empire. The 
Portuguese monarch and his court moved to Rio de Janeiro. Brazil at that time was ruled 
under a highly centralized government. Both Pedro I and his son, Pedro II, demanded 
that officials rotate from place to place to ensure that the designs of the emperor would be 
carried out (Levine and Crocitti, 1999). Education was available only to the elite who 
would often go to the University of Coimbra in Portugal, leaving the vast majority of 
Brazilians illiterate. 

Thus began the tradition of government and power in the hands of a few select 
individuals, while the majority of the population labored to support the power holders in 
a tradition of exploitation that continued into the twentieth century (Levine and Crocitti, 
1999). In the twentieth century, with the rise of the military dictatorship that continued 
for some 20 years, this tradition of a select few power-holders exploiting the wealth of 
Brazil continued. This lack of equitable distribution of power and wealth, led to 
corruption and inefficiency in carrying out educational reforms, so that in 1 948 the 
education system was such that primary and elementary schools were rapidly declining, 
but secondary schools which matriculated the children of the wealthy and elite thrived 
(Teixeira, 1948). This explains the low pay for the vast majority of Brazilians, including 
police officers, who have turned to extortion and other crimes to supplement their income 
(Spyer, 1997). In keeping with tradition, it is always the poor and disadvantaged, never 
the wealthy and the elite who are victimized by the system. 

Thus, historically, land ownership in Brazil has been held as large estates in the 



120 

hands of a few wealthy individuals. One percent of landholders control 46% of the land 
in Brazil (Landless Movement, 1998). During the time of the Portuguese empire, 
individual landownership was forbidden. This power over the land by the wealthy has 
been driven by the need to acquire more wealth, and thus these landholdings have been 
used primarily to exploit the demand for certain crops, e.g. sugar, cocoa, coffee, or 
rubber. In each case, the high prices for these products led to the establishment of 
competitive markets in other parts of the world and the inevitable collapse of the crop- 
based economies. These booms and busts had the most detrimental effect on the slaves in 
the nineteenth century or poorly paid laborers in the twentieth century who had neither 
income nor capital to survive. 

With a tradition in which the vast majority of the population was illiterate or semi- 
literate, an oral tradition based on folk wisdom transmitted a common body of 
understandings, values, and traditions which were expressed in folklore, beliefs, crafts, 
and customs. These were not influenced by foreign ideas, values, and cultural milieus 
(Ribeiro, 2000). 

Brazilians are a people of mixed ethnicity of a variety of lineages, and Brazilians 
do not focus their attention on race (Ribeiro, 2000), as Americans who have a history of 
racial segregation. It is often difficult to ascertain from census data exactly how many 
Brazilians immigrants are living on Martha's Vineyard or in the United States. Brazilians 
are Brazilian by nationality, not by race. They definitely do not consider themselves to 
be Hispanic. And if asked to choose between "Black", White, or Hispanic, will almost 
inevitably indicate that they are white. (Lesser, 1999). Also their strong nationaUstic 
ideals of a Brazilian nationality (Ribeiro, 2000) do not give rise to pride in ethnic roots or 



121 

ancestry. Brazilians, regardless of whether they are of Portuguese, Japanese, Italian, 
German, African, Middle Eastern, or native Brazilian descent, will invariably identify 
themselves as simply "Brazilian" (Fish, 1999; Ribeiro, 2000). 

Severe unemployment brought on by the industrial revolution at the end of the 
nineteenth century caused masses of European immigrants to swarm to both the United 
States and Brazil. In Brazil they found ready employment, as the emancipation of the 
slaves in 1888 left plantations desperate for laborers. While the newly freed slaves 
flocked to the cities in search of a better life, the European immigrants eagerly took their 
place for wages that barely provided for their subsistence (Ribeiro, 2000). The exodus of 
the poor from the rural and to the urban areas in search of a better life has caused a 
massive swelling of the population in the Brazilian cities that has outpaced the ability of 
the government to provide adequate education and public services for the population. 
While emancipation of slaves in the U.S. occurred only after a tragic Civil War, Brazil's 
abolition was voluntarily decreed by the acting monarch, Princess Isabel, without 
bloodshed. Despite the fact that slavery was no longer economically viable due to the 
costs of supporting aging slaves^ and the influx of cheap immigrant labor from Europe, 
the wealthy landowners turned against the monarchy. The emperor was deposed in 1889 
by the military and a republic form of government was established. 

Today the economy of Brazil continues to wreak havoc on the lives of Brazilians, 
middle-class as well as the poor. Teachers, historically poorly paid, earn about $200 per 
month, and schools are poorly equipped. Thousands of others live in shantytown 
"favelas" from which they leave each day to work as launderers, or other laborers, while 
leaving their children in the care of other children (Levine and Crocitti, 1999). Although 



122 

slavery was abolished more than a century ago, the lives of many Brazilians living in 
poverty is not very different from slavery (Ferreira, 1999); as their chances of moving out 
of their present condition is very small. 

The Brazilian social class system should be understood, not as tiers of 
socioeconomic levels, but rather like "an inverted funnel" with "a very thin apex of very 
few people and a neck that grows broader of those who are integrated into the economic 
system as regular workers. . . in which the majority of the population is on the fringes of 
the economy and society, with no regular job and earning no minimum wage" (Ribeiro, 
2000). Thus, they are moving constantly, in the futile hope that they will find a better life 
somewhere else. 

The roots of this inequitable social structure are grounded in Brazil's history of 
exploitation of the masses by the wealthy few. "It was not by chance that Brazil passed 
from colony to independent nation and from monarchy to republic with no effect on the 
plantation order and no perception of the part of the purpose of the change" (Ribeiro, 
2000). 

The class system in Brazil, because it is so unbridgeable, is more like a caste 
system in which it is almost impossible for those of lower birth to be admitted into the 
inner sanctum of the elite, even if they can acquire weahh. It is only the privileged who 
have access to the best education, while the majority remain illiterate or have access to 
poor education and must rely on popular wisdom and folklore rather than education and 
learning (Ribeiro, 2000). 

Specifically, DaMatta focuses on an urban ritual that he called Voge sabe com quern 
estdfalando? (Do you know who you are talking to?), a phrase used to interrupt the 

' Trafficking of slaves had been abolished some years earlier. 



123 

universal application of a rule-that is, to interrupt what he calls the discourse of the 
street-in order to gain exceptional status and to rise above the degradation reserved for all 
nobodies. So, for instance, a lady cuts in line to enter a parking lot; the attendant protests 
and points to the line, but she says "Do you know who you are talking to? I am the wife 
of so and so, member of the cabinet," and so on (DaMatta, 1999). This ritual is a way for 
those with more status to exert power over those with less status, and it is a common and 
accepted practice in Brazil. 

The great historical heritage of Brazil is really the achievement of its very makeup 
as a people unified ethnically, nationally, and culturally. It is also the failure of 
our efforts to structure ourselves in solidarity on the socioeconomic level as a 
people existing for themselves. At the root of this failure of the majorities lies the 
success of the minorities, who are still in charge. It is their destiny to shore up old 
privileges by perpetuating the monopoly of land ownership, by placing profits 
before needs, and by the imposition of archaic and renovated forms of the 
population's dependence on its role as an overexploited workforce (p. 173, 
Ribeiro, 2000). 

In addition, Brazil's history has been one in which the presence of authority has 
been part of culture (see also Freire, 1998, p. 23-24). This acceptance of authority has 
existed in Brazil from the beginning of Portuguese colonization. Brazil is the only 
country in the Americas that accepted a European king. 

The different histories of the United States and Brazil have likely contributed to 
the fierce individualism and independence that Americans value on the one hand, and the 
sense of loyalty that Brazilians feel toward maintaining the social order as necessary for 



124 

the greater good (Ribeiro, 2000). Notwithstanding this sense of national unity and 
subordination for the greater good (Ribeiro, 2000), Brazilian history is fraught with 
incidents of uprisings, revolts, and conflicts between the Indian, African, and white 
European contingents (Ribeiro, 2000). In every case, however, the revolutionary 
activities were quickly, often brutally, eradicated by the powerful ruling class and the 
system of inequity has continued. 

A milieu of corruption continues and forms the background for the present 
Brazilian Diaspora. The new democratic constitution, which was established in 1985, did 
little to change this tradition of corruption, leading to scandals, (DaMatta, 1999) and a 
presidential impeachment. Most Brazilians can be induced to cooperate with the power 
schema because of fear of losing their jobs (Levine, 1999; DaMatta, 1999). Brazilians' 
way of coping with this unacceptable level of exploitation is through cultural venues 
based on religion, such as the traditional celebration of Camaval, the end of the year 
ceremonies of Candomble, and the more recent spread of evangelical fundamentalist 
Christian sects (Ribeiro, 2000). 

It is out of this cultural, social and historic context that the Brazilian immigration 
to the United States began in the mid- 1980's (Margolis, 1993; 1997; Martes, 2000; 
Sales, 1999); and it's this context from which the Brazilians in my study come. This 
context represents a "dynamic framework" and it is "a rich resource for the researcher's 
interpretation of the . . . Thoughts, feelings and behaviors of the participants, (p. 59, 
Lawrence-Lightfoot and Davis, 1999). Brazilians are "a people in the making, in search 
of its destiny even today" (Ribeiro, 2000). 



125 

Important dates in Brazilian History 
1500 - Portuguese land in the area and claim it to the Portuguese crown. 

1530 - 1549 - First Brazilian settlements. Donatorios responsible for land development. 
1580 - 1800 - Colonial period - Triangle Trade, Gold, Coffee boom, land development. . 
1808 - 1821 - Transfer of Portuguese court to Brazil. 

1822 - Son of Portuguese king declares independence from Portugal and crowns himself 
Pedro I, Emperor of Brazil. 

1888 - Slavery abolished. Large influx of European immigrants to Brazil begins. 

1889 - Monarchy overthrown, federal republic established with central government 

controlled by coffee interests. Brazil produces 65% of world's coffee by 1902. 

1930 - Revolt places Getulio Vargas at head of provisional revolutionary government. 

1937 - Vargas leads coup, rules as dictator with military backing. 

1960 - Kubitschek (president from 1956-61) moves capital to Brasilia. 

1964 - Goulart ousted in bloodless coup, flees into exile. Repressive military regime. 

1974 - Geisel becomes president. Reforms allow limited political activity and elections. 

1988 - New constitution reduces presidential powers. 

1989 - Collor de Mello elected president. By 1991 inflation reaches 1,500%. 



126 



Family Portraits 

As a researcher working in the naturaUstic environment of the home and family, I 
drew upon the dialogue from taped parent interviews, field notes from in-home 
observations, newspaper articles, as well as interviews with Head Start staff and staff 
from the Brazilian embassy in the Washington, D.C. I also included my perspectives and 
experiences as a teacher of English as a Second Language, an early childhood teacher, a 
parent, a speaker of Portuguese, and as a person who had done the reverse of my 
participants; I moved from the United States to Brazil. Weaving these various 
perspectives together with my data, I created a tapestry in which I could display these 
families as living, growing, changing, vital, and loving human beings. In this section I 
will unfold this tapestry so that each of these families, which I have identified, using 
pseudonyms, may be viewed as a portrait against the backdrop of their Brazilian culture 
and heritage. It is my hope that the reader will meet and know these families as I knew 
them at the time of my study. 

Augusto's familv 

Augusto, a focal child in this study, was four years old when this research project 
began. He lived with his parents and his older sister in a four-room apartment (one half 
of a duplex) owned by his uncle, who lived in the other half with Augusto 's grandmother. 
On entering the front door at my first visit, I immediately found myself in a tidy and 
compact living room from where I could see into the kitchen and through the window of 
the kitchen door into the backyard beyond. There were two bedrooms in the apartment. 



127 

one for Augusto and one for his parents. His older sister, ten-year old Sonia, shared a 
bedroom with her grandmother in the other unit. 

Though the living room wasn't spacious, it was large enough for a wraparound 
sofa along the front and side wall, one of which faced an entertainment center with 
shelves, cabinets, and a large television set. A Portuguese language Brazilian newspaper 
lay atop a rectangular coffee table nestled in the angle of the couch. Whenever I visited 
this home, the television was always tuned to an English language charmel, and the 
closed caption feature was in use, allowing television-viewers to read as well as hear the 
English words. 

Augusto and his family had only been in this country for six months when I met 
them. Sabrina, Augusto's mother, a smiling, friendly woman of average build, with dark 
brown hair pulled back into a low ponytail, greeted me warmly when I arrived with the 
Head Start home visitor. 

Her husband, Rodrigo, worked long hours as a stonemason, and was at home 
during only one of my visits. In Brazil Rodrigo had been a banker and Sabrina did not 
work outside the home. However, here in the United States she worked two jobs, 
housecleaning and restaurant work, even on Sundays. Both she and her husband were so 
well paid that they didn't mind the hard work. However, regardless of their work 
responsibilities, Sabrina and Rodrigo showed a great interest in learning English and in 
helping Augusto learn to read. A Portuguese-English dictionary was frequently in sight 
during my home visits, and Augusto had his own writing tablet and set of pencils. 
Sabrina told me that she and her husband were teaching Augusto his letters, as well as 



128 

teaching themselves English by using books and tapes. They also had the help of a 
literacy volunteer who visited their home weekly to teach English. 

On one of my last visits, Sabrina proudly showed me a set of photos of a stucco 
ranch style house with a clay tile roof and an expansive tiled veranda. This, she 
explained, was her house in Brazil. She bought this house for US $10,000 with money 
her husband had earned on his first trip to Martha's Vineyard. Sabrina explained to me 
that a few years earlier, her husband had come to the Vineyard to work for the summer. 
He earned enough money in that summer to buy their house in Brazil, and he made an 
impression on his employer. After his return to Brazil he went back to his work in the 
bank, but the bank failed. He could not get work. When his former employer on the 
Vineyard heard about his troubles, he urged him to come back and work for him and this 
employer prepared the necessary documents so that he could legally work here. Sabrina 
and the children followed him later. At first they were denied entry into the U.S., but 
they did not give up. Sabrina and the children first immigrated to Canada, and then, later, 
they were granted permission to enter the U.S. It was a long, difficult, and expensive 
process. 

She explained that her brother was the ovraer of their Martha's Vineyard 
residence, and that she paid him rent for her unit. She knew how fortunate she was, 
because Brazilians looking for houses to rent on the island sometimes had the door closed 
in their face, she told me. 

Augusto was the only child in my study who was not in a preschool and the only 
one who spoke no English at all. His mother tried to enroll him soon after they arrived 
on the island, but there were no spaces available. Augusto remained on the waiting list 



129 

during the entire time of the study. Consequently all of my conversations with Augusto 
were in Portuguese. 

Except for my initial visit (when the Head Start visitor was present) and the day 
that I prearranged to interview her, Sabrina was rarely in the room when I arrived for my 
visits. Sometimes she was not at home, and Augusto was with his grandmother in the 
unit next door. Sabrina didn't always remember to tell me in advance, but I soon learned 
that if there was no answer at home, I should knock on the door of the other unit. 
Augusto 's grandmother always greeted me warmly and invited me inside 

On days when she was home, Sabrina usually slipped quietly into her bedroom 
during my visits. From the living room, which was only a few steps away, I could hear 
her talking on the phone or practicing with her English language tapes. Occasionally she 
stopped in to see if I or Augusto needed anything, but she usually left us alone while she 
occupied herself with other matters. The house was so compact that no matter what room 
we were in, we were close to anyone else in any of the other rooms. 

Except for the dictionary, there were no books in sight during my earlier visits. 
However as the holiday season drew near, there was a Spanish-English bilingual 
Christmas catalog from Fingerhut in the living room, usually on the couch or the coffee 
table. On one of my visits, Augusto turned this catalog into a game. He took out his 
notebook and began copying the words from the cover of the catalog. Although he 
couldn't read the words, neither in Portuguese nor in English, he did recognize the letters 
and he appeared to understand that those letters form groups that carry meaning. 

On my second visit, Augusto invited me on a tour through his bedroom. Here he 
showed me a large laundry basket filled with toys, mostly miniature trucks and cars. He 



130 

seemed to enjoy the fact that he had my full attention, and he reveled in showing me the 
shelves filled with stuffed animals, adorning the walls of his bedroom. 

He opened his closet to me, where I could see that, along with clothing, the large 
closet contained games, musical toys, construction paper, and art materials. Showing me 
his musical Alphabet Apple, Augusto demonstrated how he could listen to letters and 
sounds in English and then point to pictures beginning with those sounds. The Alphabet 
Apple played music when he identified the correct letter-sound combination, much to 
Augusto' s delight. 

Augusto explained the cars and the layout to me and when he put a tree on the 
race car set he told me what he was doing. He showed me how he could move objects, 
such as the tree or the toll gate, to different places on the board. He made noises like an 
ambulance and fire truck when he moved them on the board. 

Augusto clearly considered me a valuable asset to his play, especially since he 
soon learned that I was a very compliant playmate who let him make all the decisions 
regarding his imaginative play. He chattered continually to me during play as he was 
explaining to me everything he was doing. One day when his array of Fisher-Price 
parking lot pieces were displayed along with several small cars, trucks, and other 
accessories, he picked up the miniature traffic light and said, in Portuguese, "What is 
this?" I answered, also in Portuguese, "A traffic light." Then he pointed to two other 
traffic lights, in succession, and said at one, "Stop," and another, "yellow," all in 
Portuguese. He delighted in showing how he could make his little cars stop and go up the 
ramp, and he explained everything to me while he demonstrated his toys for me. 
Augusto continued to play with his cars, piling all of them up in the "parking lot" of his 



131 

matchbox car layout. He had a fire truck, ambulance, police car, and helicopter, which he 
"flew" through the room, making appropriate chopper-like sounds. 

Shortly afterward, I heard quiet voices in the background coming fi-om Sabrina's 
room. A few minutes later, a girl who appeared to be about ten or twelve years walked 
out and went into the kitchen. Then I heard the back door open and close and a young 
adult male, was also in the kitchen. I later learned that the girl was Augusto's sister and 
the man was his uncle. This moving back and forth from one apartment to the other, 
made it clear that the physical boundaries of the duplex did not interfere with the free 
flow of family members. It seemed that this duplex was being inhabited more like the 
way they all might have lived together in their large house in Brazil. 

On one of the rare visits, in which Augusto's father was home, he picked up a 
book that he had been reading when I arrived, and went into his bedroom. Augusto, who 
had been watching television, barely noticed me. He sat quietly absorbed in a cartoon 
show with English close-captions. He said nothing to me. As the music from the 
program swelled, Augusto started clapping his hands in time with the music. Soon, that 
wasn't enough. Then he started kicking his feet in time with the music. Finally he began 
clapping his feet together and continued with the rhythm of the music, even after it 
stopped. 

A minute later, Augusto rose from the couch and looked around toward the 
bedrooms, apparently looking for his father. For a moment, I slipped, and said to him in 
English, "Are you looking for your daddy?" Augusto looked at me blankly, staring at me 
with a stuimed look on his face. 1 immediately realized my mistake and repeated myself 
in Portuguese. 



132 

Although neither of us could see his father, we could hear the sound of paper 
shuffling coming from the parents' bedroom. I concluded from this that he had moved 
into his room to study or do other paperwork, so as not to be distracted by the television 
or to find a private place away from my observing eyes. 

Augusto apparently was satisfied that his father was accessible, and he entertained 
himself with the television remote, using it to flip from charmel to charmel. He kept 
flipping until he found cartoons, and then he stopped. However, it was soon evident that 
the cartoons were a commercial, so he picked up the remote and started flipping again. 
This time he stopped when he found a children's show with Muppets, a playhouse, and 
animated cartoons. As always, the English language captions appeared. I could hear 
Sabrina, in a low voice, from the other room speaking or possibly reading out loud in 
English. 

Then Augusto took the remote for the television and for the cable box and put 
them on the floor next to the couch. He rolled over the edge of the couch upside down 
into a somersault and then somersaulted back onto the couch, rolling fi-om one end of the 
couch to the other. 

Augusto rolled around some more and stretched out on the couch. He picked up a 
tiny piece of paper, about 1/2" square, from the floor and began examining it. Then he 
stuck it under his nose and rolled on the floor some more. He picked up a tiny black bead 
fi-om the floor and showed it to me, saying in Portuguese, "It's a toy.'" Then he got down 
on the floor and said he was looking for some more beads. 

After a few minutes he left the living room and returned with a Portuguese 
Pinocchio paperback book. Then he opened the book and began to turn the pages from 



133 

beginning to end and telling about Pinocchio and the leaves growing on his nose. Then 
when he turned the last page, he said in Portuguese, "It's finished," and he went to his 
room and came back with a toy car. 

Augusto had among his toys, a little plastic case filled with soldiers and letters of 
the alphabet with tiny pegs on the backs. The cover of the case was like a pegboard that 
he could stick the letters into. On one visit he took out a piece of chalk from inside it, 
and he began to draw on the other side which was a chalkboard. He made a picture that 
he called a "ship" in Portuguese. It was a recognizable likeness and had two sails, one 
above the other. 

Sabrina, who was in the kitchen, went outdoors on that bitterly cold day. Augusto 
immediately jumped up and he called "Mommy" as he went outside after her. A minute 
later she brought him back in by the hand and said to him, "Augusto, what are you doing? 
It's freezing." Then she sat next to him on the couch and said in Portuguese, "Mommy is 
studying, Augusto, o.k.? I'm going to my room to study." She smiled affectionately and 
gave him a hug. Then she went to her room, and he sat on the couch eating an apple. 

Her voice could be heard practicing her English. Augusto sat on the couch, 
making no sign that he was aware that she was studying, yet her voice could easily be 
heard in this small apartment. When he finished eating, he went into the kitchen, opened 
the back door, and tossed the apple outside and into the back yard. He turned to me and 
said, "It's in the trash." I wondered where the apple had landed. 

Augusto sat down to continue his "work". He erased his picture with a paper 
towel that he had removed from the box with the chalk. Then he put the paper towel and 
the chalk back inside. He said, "I'm going to write my name," and he removed the letters 



134 

one by one from the box. He began humming and singing, and then he started removing 
numbers from his box and saying the number in Portuguese, "Tres, Dois". Then he said, 
"Done." He closed and locked the case, and he started placing the numbers on the 
pegboard. 

Sabrina came into the room, saw what he was doing, and said, "Are you going to 
study, too?" Then she sat next to him, and he said, "Tm going to play with this." He 
started talking about the letters and numbers, and she chatted with him about them. Then 
he took the numbers one by one and said their names, and he put them on the pegboard. 
Sabrina said, "You have to learn to say it in English so the teachers will understand you." 
He looked at her and asked if he had done the numbers correctly and she said, "Yes." 

She asked him to say the numbers in English. "One, two, three, four, five" he 
answered. Then, in Portuguese, she asked, "What is this in English?" Pointing to the 
number four, and he said, "Four." She did this several times with the numbers between 1 
and 5. Then he took the numbers and put them in order on the pegboard. He discovered 
that "5" was missing, and she asked him where it was. He said nothing, but went into his 
bedroom. He came back with more numbers, but he did not have a "5." Then she showed 
him "8" and said, "What number is this?" 

"Oito (eight)," he said. Then he went back to his room looking for the "5". A 
few minutes later he came back saying that he could not find it. He soon solved this 
problem. He took the chalk out of his box, closed the lid and wrote the number "5" on 
the chalkboard cover, and Sabrina praised him lavishly. 

While he continued manipulating the numbers, Sabrina told me that he was afraid 
to go to school, although she agreed that he would be prepared to begin kindergarten. She 



135 

told me that he was afraid of being with American children because he didn't know 
English. 

Augusto then removed all the numbers from the pegboard. Then Sabrina took the 
letters and spelled out "pai" (father) and said the word out loud. Then she said, "amigo," 
(firiend) and spelled it with Augusto' s letters. Then she did the same with "tia" (aunt) and 
"mae" (mother). Then, as Augusto busied himself with the letters, Sabrina discussed a 
local day care center she had visited. She had been shocked at the poor quality, lack of 
formal instruction, and the lack of nutritious food (e.g., bagels) that was offered to the 
children. 

One day when I visited Augusto at his grandmother's apartment, Augusto 
occupied himself with Portuguese cartoons and videos on television while his 
grandmother busied herself with laundry and housecleaning. The grandmother's 
apartment was almost identical to its counterpart next door, except that here Augusto did 
not have his extensive trove of toys. 

Augusto 's grandmother was polite and courteous, but she was usually busy in the 
kitchen during my visits. At my first visit, she chatted with me. She explained that she 
had a job cleaning houses. She also told me that she loved the United States because she 
was well-paid for her work. She talked about her heart condition, and she spoke very 
highly of the medical care she has received in this country. She explained to me that she 
was a widow and had lived on the Vineyard for three years. 

Without his toys, Augusto's only entertainment was television. Nevertheless, his 
curious mind never stopped. He chattered on about Pinocchio, noting the hat on 
Pinocchio's head, his clothes and his shoes. He talked about the whale and how enormous 



136 

it looked. Then there was the cat, the goldfish in the bowl, Jiminy Cricket's umbrella, 
and the leaves on Pinocchio's nose - every detail was of interest to Augusto. When the 
fairy was about to arrive, Augusto, who knew what was about to happen, explained to me 
in Portuguese that it was the fairy who would make "Pinocchio's nose grow." After the 
video ended, he examined the package from the videotape, acting as if he were reading 
and/or studying the words v^itten on it. 

On my later visits to the grandmother's apartment, Augusto began to bring out 
coloring books with simple stories in Portuguese; and he colored the pages eagerly. All 
the while, he constantly explained the story, the book, and the colors, just to make sure 
that I understood what he was doing. It was not unusual for Augusto to spend forty 
minutes coloring in one of these books while I sat nearby. 

He had another book, which he called a storybook, and he thumbed through the 
pages. This book, which bore the stamp of the Department of Education in Minas Gerais, 
Brazil, had pictures, sentences with blanks to fill in, and pages to color. On closer 
examination, I saw that it was a Brazilian school workbook with instructions to the 
teacher for teaching stories. The book included Portuguese vocabulary words, simple 
sentences to read, and instructions on writing letters in cursive. It also included a section 
with directions to the teacher for enrichment activities. 

The back of the book contained a set of short essays for the teacher, which 
focused on reflections on literacy. The essays referenced Piaget, Vygotsky, Joao 
Guimaraes Rosa and Paulo Freire. Later, Sabrina explained to me that they had been able 
to get these books as well as other children's books through contacts in Brazil. 



137 

As if all of this wasn't enough to prepare Augusto for school, he received a toy 
computer for his birthday. This computer was like a lightweight laptop word processor. 
Augusto delighted in pointing to the numbers on the keyboard and naming all of them in 
Portuguese. He spelled his name on the computer, squealing with excitement every time 
he found one of the letters in his name. 
Postscript, December, 2002 

Augusto is now in the second grade. He successfully transitioned to kindergarten 
in the local public school and has been working at grade level. He now speaks English 
very well and is reading at grade level. However, he has forgotten much of his 
Portuguese. This is probably due to the fact that he is in school all day where he speaks 
only English; and, because he never learned to read in Portuguese, his literacy 
development is entirely in English. On the other hand, his parents now speak English; 
and I recently came upon them in the public school communicating effectively in English 
with the school staff. Augusto's parents recently bought their own home on Martha's 
Vineyard. It is a comfortable and cozy Cape Cod style home with enough space so that 
each of the children has a bedroom. 

Janaina's family 

Larissa and Eduardo lived with four-year old daughter, Janaina, in a one-bedroom 
apartment over a garage. Janaina, whose parents were both from rural areas in Brazil, 
was bom in the United States. Eduardo grew up in a small town in Espirito Santo in 
Brazil. He came to the United States in 1 988 when he was a young man and he wanted to 
earn money to help his parents. He had lived on Martha's Vineyard for last four years 
when I met him. 



138 

Eduardo originally moved to New York, then Boston, and finally moved with his 
family to Martha's Vineyard after the birth of Janaina. Larissa, who was from Minas 
Gerais in Brazil, met Eduardo in Boston. They fell in love and married. She had been in 
this country eleven years when we met. Eduardo had been studying English and was able 
to communicate very effectively in English. Larissa, who was expecting their second 
child, did not speak any English. Eduardo handled any business that needed to be 
conducted in English. 

Janaina knew how to speak both English and Portuguese. Larissa told me that 
she wanted to speak only Portuguese to Janaina so that she would not forget how to speak 
Portuguese. She wanted her to be able to talk to her cousins and family in Brazil. Larissa 
said that she could teach Janaina to speak correct Portuguese, and she would learn correct 
English in school. That way Janaina would be able to speak both languages. 

Eduardo, age 37, said modestly that he could speak only a little English, but that 
he was studying English using videotapes. He told me that he had completed his 
education in Brazil where he attended school until he was eighteen years old. Larissa 
didn't remember exactly how long she had gone to school in Brazil. 

Larissa's family still lived in Brazil, but Eduardo had two sisters who lived in the 
Boston area. They found that Martha's Vineyard was a "good place to work in the 
summer, and a quiet, peaceful place to raise a family." Eduardo described himself as 
something of a homebody. He said that he didn't care to go out much and didn't mix 
much. He talked about his sister in New York, but said he wasn't able to visit her very 
often. He said that was all right, though, because his present family made up for any loss 
of ties he had with his family of upbringing, and he clearly showed in his behavior that 



139 

his wife and children were primary interests in his Ufe. A quiet, sofit-spoken man, 
Eduardo displayed affection and tenderness when he spoke with his wife or daughter. 
He bore a serious demeanor, but one that easily broke into a beaming smile for his 
daughter. 

Larissa who was eight months pregnant continued to work as a maid in a local 
hotel. A slight, dark-haired woman in her thirties, Larissa wore her black hair tied back 
from her face, accentuating her high cheekbones and deep-set eyes. Although she could 
speak no English, she boasted that her boss at the hotel had learned to speak Portuguese. 

Although their apartment was tiny, they used the space well. A large open room 
with a kitchenette at one end was adjacent to the single bedroom. The television, which 
was set to close captioned when it was on, stood directly in front of the lone couch in the 
narrow, galley-shaped living room. A cabinet and shelves flanked the television, and one 
day Janaina opened the cabinet door to a cascade of children's books of every kind that 
had been stuffed inside. Most of the books, which Larissa said they received from the 
Head Start program, were in English. There was one Portuguese language children's 
book. There were also three English language bibles. 

Because the apartment was small, with few places to hide or store items, many 
print items related to every day living were in view. This included a variety of packaged 
and carmed foods, notebooks, an appointment calendar, clock, microwave oven with 
dials, and a print of the New York City skyline with the words, "New York City, NY." 

At the time of my first visit, the home was lush with baby things in anticipation of 
the newest member of their family. There was little chance to hide anything in their tiny 



140 

home; infant clothes, toys, and pillows are neatly stacked together between the sofa and 
the kitchen peninsula. 

As I grew to know this family, they shared their pride in Janaina's drawings and 
her notebook (a large book of newsprint that Larissa bought for her). At lunchtime, 
Eduardo and Larissa worked as a team to place salad, fruit, and ham sandwiches on the 
table. With limited storage space, many packages of food products were on open shelves 
or on the countertop, making this home the most visibly "print-rich" of all the homes that 
I visit. Because many of the food items had been purchased at the local Brazilian food 
store, the language of many of these items was Portuguese. 

The family subscribed to the Disney cable television channel, and they frequently 
used the closed caption feature to display the dialogue in English. One day, I had the 
opportunity to witness a valuable use of television. Instead of Janaina sitting alone 
watching television, as children often do, Janaina sat cuddled up to her father during a 
Disney movie. The entire time, they whispered to each other about what was happening 
in the story. It was a memorable moment in which the television became a springboard 
for their intimacy, rather than a barrier. 

The Head Start home visitor, Mary, could not speak Portuguese; but Eduardo's 
English was sufficient for them. On the first visit, in which Mary accompanied me to 
visit the family, Eduardo asked Mary to help him with their Masshealth coverage. In 
Massachusetts, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid are 
combined into one program called Masshealth. Through this program the Department of 
Medical Assistance offers a broad range of health-care services by paying for part or all 
of a Masshealth member's health insurance, or paying medical providers for services 



141 

given to masshealth members. Qualified members may be able to get doctor visits, 
prescription drugs, hospital stays, and many other important services. Mary sat down 
with Eduardo and went over the paperwork with him. Mary offered to help him fill out 
the forms, if necessary. This application was important because Larissa's baby was due 
in just a few weeks. 

At my first visit in December, the Christmas tree was up, decorated, and music 
was playing when I arrived. Mary was helping Eduardo with a bill for an insurance 
premium. Although he could speak English very well, he was, nevertheless, unsure about 
how the American system of health care and insurance worked. 

At one of my earlier visits, I arrived at the appointed time and the door was open 
and I could see that the carpet in the apartment was being steam cleaned. Larissa wasn't 
in the apartment, but the Brazilian workers told me that she was expected back soon. I 
decided to wait for her, and after about ten minutes she emerged fi-om a neighbor's 
apartment. In preparation for the baby, she had decided to have the carpet cleaned. She 
apologized for not remembering to tell me about the cleaning or that Janaina would not 
be home (requirement for my observations) because she was in school. 

The workers were just finishing their job, and she invited me inside. As she 
finished her transaction with them, she turned to me with her check and asked me to fill it 
out for her so that she could sign it. She said that she was not sure how to spell correctly 
in English, and she did not want to make a mistake. I did as she asked and the cleaning 
people left. 

Then the phone rang, and she asked me to answer it. I did. It was a phone call 
from an English speaking person who needed to make an appointment with Larissa. I 



142 

acted as translator and intermediary for them both and without knowing who or what the 
appointment was about, I arranged the date and time. Then Larissa herself had to leave. 

Later, when reflecting on this, I wondered if Larissa had arranged my 
appointment for that day so that it would coincide with the completion of the carpet 
cleaning as well as the telephone call so that I would be able to be there to help her with 
those transactions. 

Mary, the Head Start home visitor, was also present on one of my visits. She 
spoke only English, but since Eduardo and Janaina could speak English, they were able to 
communicate without difficulty. Both Eduardo and Larissa were very interested in 
Janaina's progress with her letters and numbers, and they listened intently as Mary 
answered their questions regarding Janaina's development. 

While Mary talked with Eduardo, Larissa and Janaina sat together. Janaina was 
drawing pictures and Larissa was teaching her to practice and name the letters of the 
alphabet in Portuguese. Both parents were nearby as Janaina practiced her letters and 
her drawings. In this tiny apartment, no matter where one was, he or she was near 
whoever else was in the apartment. 

Larissa and Janaina were very affectionate as they sat together, but Larissa said 
that she was not feeling well. The baby was due any day. Janaina did not seem herself 
either. She acted tired. She yavraed, climbed on her mother's lap, put her head against 
her mother's bosom and closed her eyes. A few minutes later she got up again and went 
back to practicing her letters. 

After Mary left, Eduardo busied himself in the kitchen nook. He began pulling 
things from the refrigerator. Then he started cleaning the kitchen area, moving papers 



143 

away from the counter and tidying up the cooking area. A basket of fruit sat on top of the 
breakfast bar, and he helped himself to an apple while he cleaned. Every now and then 
he interrupted his ritual to come over and talk to Janaina, sometimes patting her or 
tickling her. 

When he finished his work in the kitchen, he turned on the television. Janaina 
brought him a book, and he told her to put it away until later, and she did. Then he 
picked up the television remote and spent the next few minutes putting batteries into it. 
Finally he settled himself on the couch only about 10 feet away from Larissa who sat at 
the dining table. 

Janaina sat, engrossed in an animated cartoon on television, snuggled up to her 
father and watched as two small dinosaurs talked about their fear of never finding their 
lost little boy dinosaur. Then the scene went to the little dinosaur who was crying and 
Janaina looked intently, her eyes wide and piercing, with a very serious expression on her 
face. A song came from the animated characters, and Eduardo patted Janaina gently in 
time with the rhythm. Then the scene changed to a beautiful star-studded night sky and 
Janaina said in awe, "It's beautiful," in Portuguese. The next scene showed the 
dinosaurs whispering and shaking in fear. Eduardo and Janaina both giggled, and 
Eduardo turned to her to see that she was smiling, too, and wasn't afraid. Janaina and 
Eduardo quietly made comments to each other, comments which I could barely hear. 

Then, in English, he offered me some refreshment. I declined, and he went to the 
kitchen and began preparing something for himself A few minutes later he came back 
and cuddled up to Janaina again. When the movie got scary, Eduardo would turn to look 
at Janaina, and he would whisper in her ear. 



144 

This television watching was an intimate moment between parent and child. The 
interactions between them were very quiet. Although I was only a few feet away, I 
couldn't hear what he said to her, and I think that this was intentional. I believe that this 
was meant to be private between the two of them. 

The closeness and affection that I saw was mirrored in the physical closeness of 
everything in their small apartment. With only one bedroom for mother and Dad, Janaina 
slept in the living room on the couch. At first her baby brother's crib was in her parents' 
bedroom; but later, it was moved into the living room next to the couch. In spite of the 
close quarters, there was still room for guests and visitors who frequently stopped by 
during my visits. 

I thought about my own home and my friends' homes, organized so that everyone 
has their own space, and I marvel at how little space a person really needs. On my visits, 
they sang together, played together, read together, and Janaina drew pictures of all of 
them together. Clearly, Eduardo, Larissa, and Janaina are a close family and share a 
special bond. 

The day before one of my scheduled visits in December, Eduardo called to tell me 
that Larissa had the baby and was in the local hospital. Instead of our usual visit, I 
decided to go to the hospital and bring a gift to Larissa. She appeared tired, but was very 
happy. She beamed expansively as she introduced me to her infant son. We chatted and 
a Brazilian friend who worked in the hospital also came to visit her. Larissa asked me to 
help her with the baby as she shifted to a more comfortable position. One of the nurses in 
the hospital noticed that I could speak Portuguese and asked for my help. The nurses had 
been trying to communicate with Larissa about the baby. They told me that Larissa 



145 

appeared to be frightened about their questions and routines; and the nurse asked me to 
reassure Larissa that the baby was absolutely fine, which I did. 

On my last visit with the family, two guests arrived while I was there. Eduardo 
had just returned from a trip to Florida where he had been looking for a job. He showed 
all of us a video of the trip, along with his commentary. He showed us scenes of a 
Brazilian neighborhood in Florida, as well as the larger urban area in which it was 
situated. Family and friends together discussed his prospects and the life they could lead 
in Florida. The area was beautiful, with palm trees and a warm climate like they had in 
Brazil, and there would be many job opportunities for him. Eduardo told me that he was 
trying to decide if they should move to Florida. 
Postscript, December, 2002 

Janaina started second grade in September and had been progressing rapidly in 
English reading and writing. She no longer remembered very much Portuguese, and 
English had become her dominant language. Then, suddenly, a few weeks after the 
beginning of the school year, and without explanation, Janaina' s parents notified the 
school that they were moving back to Brazil. Within a week the family was gone. 
Another student in the school told a teacher that they had to return to Brazil for legal 
reasons. However, no one has had any contact with the family since that time; and so we 
were not sure what actually happened. 

Maria's family 

Maria was a five-year old whose birthday was just two weeks past the deadline to 
enter kindergarten, making her the oldest Head Start child in this study. Maria, an only 
child, had long, dark curly hair framing her impish smile and her long dark eye lashes. 



146 

She lived with her father, Mario, and her mother, Nilza. They had been in this country 
only six months, and were, therefore, the newest immigrants in this project. They lived 
in a large two-story house, which they shared with two other Brazilians, unrelated to 
them. They paid $1 500 per month for their shared quarters, and they knew that their 
lease would expire at the end of April, when the tourist season would begin. No one in 
the household could speak English. 

Nilza, a tall, thin woman, appeared to be in her mid-thirties at the time of our first 
meeting. She had long, brown, curly hair, and large dark eyes. At my first visit, in 
which I was accompanied by the Brazilian home visitor, also named Maria, she acted the 
solicitous hostess, offering me cookies and cafezinho (a strong, dark, heavily sweetened 
Brazilian coffee, served in small demitasse cups). The ease with which she seemed to 
float from the kitchen to the living room with her dishes of sweets gave her the air of one 
accustomed to entertaining. 

Mario was a personable man, eager to learn about my studies and to share his 
thoughts and struggles as he learned to speak English. He was devoted to his daughter, 
and frequently engaged her in writing and drawing when he was at home with her. He 
was also quite astute. He prepared for my near weekly visits, and he regularly brought 
me documents and/or letters in English that he had received from various agencies, such 
as Masshealth, Social Security, the Registry of Motor Vehicles, and the Immigration and 
Naturalization Service. At least part of my home visits were occupied with translating 
these letters and documents for Mario and Nilza, as well as explaining to them how the 
"system" works here. 



147 

Both Nilza and Mario had had professional occupations when they lived in Brazil, 
but the economy declined there, making work impossible to find. Nilza had worked for a 
newspaper; her husband had been a manager for an apartment building. Here in the 
United States, Nilza worked in a pizza parlor; and Mario was a house painter. 

Nilza had a brother who had lived in Boston for the previous two years, but she 
and her family were unable to visit him there because he shared a residence with a group 
of other Brazilians and he did not have a private space of his own. Mario had a sister and 
brother-in-law who were also living on Martha's Vineyard with their children, so it was 
easier for them to visit. Although Maria was an only child, both Nilza and Mario came 
from large families. She had seven siblings. He was one of eleven children. 

Both Mario and Nilza agreed that education was of the utmost importance for 
their daughter, and they expressed concern about Maria's educational future in American 
schools. They had heard stories about the poor American schools, and they feared that 
Maria, a very bright young child, would not be sufficiently challenged in the schools and 
that she would fall behind her counterparts in Brazil. Maria had been enrolled in a 
private school in Brazil. There, she had learned to recognize all of the letters of the 
alphabet and had begun writing them. Mario and Nilza were very disappointed that she 
had to wait a year to start kindergarten. They were particularly worried that she was 
bored by the American preschool. Both Nilza and Mario actively encouraged Maria in 
her writing and "reading." During one home visit, Mario showed Maria how to shape the 
letters. He reached around her and held her hand, almost embracing her as he guided her 
hand — for just a minute. Then he took his hand away and let her write. He watched, and 



148 

then he gently pointed out to her that she forgot to put the "Uttle hat" on the capital F. It 
was a tender moment, as well as a teaching moment. 

This family subscribed to a satellite television service, which allowed them to 
receive Brazilian and Portuguese television programs. Because their work schedules 
were lighter during the winter, offseason, Mario and Nilza, spent more time at home. 
Perhaps their nostalgia for Brazil made this a time for watching Brazilian novellas 
(television stories that are equivalent to American soap operas). This Brazilian television 
played in the background while Maria and other members of her family engaged in 
conversations and play activities. Typically, Maria played with her dolls or her games on 
the floor of the living room, with only occasional interest in the television. Every few 
minutes she might interrupt her play to look at the television, but then she returned to her 
play. 

Mario and Nilza limited Maria's television watching to two hours per day. The 
rest of the time, when she was not in school, she played with her many toys. She liked to 
draw, color, and produce creations with glitter, paint and glue. Nilza said proudly that 
"art is her [Maria's] favorite". Nilza told me that in Brazil they read many stories to 
Maria, but in America they could not because all of the children's books were in English. 

Maria's family found their emigration to the United States relatively easy. They 
all moved here together, and Nilza said that she could not see any real change in their 
family life. She worried that American television has too much violence, but both 
parents agreed that they were happy to be in a safe place like Martha's Vineyard where 
they also had access to more services, such as Head Start and health care, than in Brazil. 



149 

The one hardship that Nilza talked about was that she missed her mother and father in 
Brazil. She made a point to call them as often as possible. 

Although she didn't dwell on it, Nilza also said that she had a great deal of 
difficulty adjusting to the cold climate of New England. On one of my home visits in 
November, I noticed that all three members of the family were wearing t-shirts and 
sandals. They didn't have any winter clothing because it was already getting warm when 
they arrived the previous March. They adapted by turning the thermostat high enough to 
be comfortable in their summer clothing. Nilza told me that they did not have any winter 
coats. She asked for my help, and I made some phone calls. A few days later I received 
three winter jackets from a local church to take to the family. 

Besides drawing and coloring, Maria's favorite activity was playing with her 
dolls, especially her Barbies. On one visit Maria played with her dolls, ignoring me. I sat 
to the side, observing and taking notes. Nilza and Mario sat nearby and watched Maria 
playing, from time to time they chatted with me. Nilza talked to Maria about Barbie and 
how many she has and that she wants more from Papae Noel. She dressed Barbie and 
Mom got down on the floor with another Barbie and dressed her. Then they talked about 
the snow that was expected to come and that it was going to be very cold, freezing cold. 

Maria received more dolls for Christmas, as well as doll clothes, doll accessories, 
doll furniture, and a dollhouse. One of her Barbies even carried a baby in a baby carrier. 
Nilza played Barbie dolls with Maria on several of my home visits. When neither Nilza 
nor Mario was available to play with her, Maria solicited me as her playmate, and she 
was very precise in directing me how to play. 



150 

On another visit, Nilza wasn't home. Mario and Maria were the only two in the 
house. Maria was eager and excited that I had come to "play with" her and she 
immediately engaged me. Maria played with Barbie, dressing her with various clothes. 
Mario sat on the couch nearby, watching Brazilian television. He was wearing his jacket, 
and sipping something from a cup. He acknowledged me and spoke briefly to me; but 
most of the time he sat absorbed in a Brazilian novella. He looked like he was trying 
very hard to feel warm. I suspected that at that moment, with the cold snowy weather we 
were having, he missed his homeland very much. In Brazil, the seasons are the reverse of 
those in the United States, and as he sat in his wintry abode, he was surely well aware 
that his family and friends in Brazil were undoubtedly on their way to the beach. 

Maria left the room to get more toys for us to play and Mario and I had a 
discussion about houses, and he asked where 1 lived on the island and where I was fi'om. 
Then Maria returned with more toys. She brought a small sink, a stove, a doll chair, a 
cabinet with small pots and pans, and a cabinet with miniature food packages. Nilza 
came home and began to play with Maria, and together they dressed the Barbie doll. 

Maria had a little bag of tiny doll shoes and boots (for snow) and a tiny doctor kit. 
Nilza and Maria dressed the doll with a hat and purse, and Maria decided that the green 
print hat coordinated better with the check print dress than the black and white check 
dress. 

Then she took Barbie's little suitcase and Mom asked her if she wanted to go to 
Brazil. She said no. Then she left to get another "bolsa" (purse). She went downstairs to 
the basement. She came back with another knitted Barbie purse and started counting how 
many purses and bags she had. She counted -1-2-3-4, in English. She took all of 



151 

them ~ shopping bag, purse, medical bag, and another purse — and arranged them in a 
box. 

Then she took her doll fiimiture. She had a tiny entertainment center and she 
arranged a plastic television, speaker and VCR. She arranged the setting so that Barbie 
was sitting in a chair in front of the television as if she were watching it. Then Maria 
picked one small plastic doll accessory and said to her mother in English, "What is that?" 
and Nilza looked at it and said "o livro" (book). Maria never tired of her Barbie dolls 
and she found creative ways of combining her dolls and toys into stories that she played 
out for us. There was the day Barbie had a temper tantrum and knocked her entire 
entertairmient center, pieces flying in all directions; and there was the time her black 
Barbie took her baby for a stroll in her baby carrier. 

One day Nilza started a conversation with Maria while she was playing. She 
asked her if she wanted to go back to Brazil and asked her if she missed her grandparents 
who still lived there. Maria answered "mais ou menos" (sort of) to her question. Then 
Nilza asked if she missed "Robo". Maria couldn't remember, and then Nilza reminded 
her that was her dog in Brazil. Nilza didn't respond to this, but she noted that it was 
raining very hard. 

Even though Maria did not yet know how to read, she sometimes behaved as 
though she could. One day she picked up the directions for a Barney board game and 
studied the page as if she were finding meaning in the words. She had several board 
games and delighted in explaining the directions to me. 

Maria sat in the Living Room on the floor, right in the center and she had a 
"Barney" game. She explained in Portuguese to me how to play it. The Barney game had 



152 

cardboard cutouts shaped like eggs but each had different designs and colors. Maria took 
them and sorted them into stacks with like stripes. She showed me the pointer dial and 
said in Portuguese, "You're supposed to spin it (the dial)." She picked up the cover to 
the game and studied it as if she were reading it. 

Nilza was working in the kitchen which was totally open to the living and dining 
area, separated only by a breakfast bar. Nilza came in the living room and turned on a 
television cartoon of some children on a roller coaster. Maria started laughing and 
giggling. It ended and mother and child both said, "It's over," in Portuguese. The 
commercial came on in Portuguese. Nilza explained that they could get Brazilian 
television from a satellite service. 

On one of my home visits, as I got ready to leave, Nilza asked me to translate a 
sheaf of papers that she had obviously set aside for my visit. I could see what looked like 
the seal of the commonwealth of Massachusetts on the top page. As I examined the 
documents, I saw that it contained information about their Masshealth application. I 
translated the document and discussed it with Nilza and Mario who joined us for the 
discussion. 

At another visit, Nilza showed me a gift certificate she received, but she didn't 
know what she was supposed to do with it. This gift certificate for food was one of 
several gifts the family had received from an organization that provides help to the needy. 
I called the store in question for Nilza and I got the information she requested, the name 
and address of the store. She explained that she didn't know where it was, so I showed 
her on a map and I also wrote directions for her. In response to my inquiry, she told me 



153 

that she had transportation, but she had not known where to go or what to do with the 
certificate when she got there. 

On another visit, Nilza asked me to go with her to the post office so that she could 
get a post office box. (Most areas of Martha's Vineyard do not have mail delivery. 
Therefore, almost everyone has a post office box, and the daily trip to the post office to 
pick up mail is usually a social activity where people meet their friends and neighbors. 

We went to the post office together and waited in line. When we reached the 
clerk I explained in English that I was helping this lady who needed a post office box. 
He explained that there was a waiting list, and it would probably be several months 
before a box would be available. He said they would call her. I offered to leave my 
name so that they could call me to translate for her. The helpful clerk replied that 
wouldn't be necessary because there were plenty of people who could speak Spanish. I 
told him that she speaks Portuguese. He said, "Oh it's the same thing." When we left the 
post office, Nilza looked at me incredulously and said, "I don't speak Spanish. Doesn't he 
know that Spanish and Portuguese are two different languages?" Somewhat embarrassed 
I replied, "He thinks that if you speak Portuguese then you must also be able to speak 
Spanish." 

During another visit, while sitting at the dining room table, we had a lengthy 
discussion about learning languages. Mario came and sat dovra with us so that he could 
join the conversation. They talked about how difficult it is to learn English. Maria sat at 
the table with us, silently coloring in her book the whole time we were talking. Then 
Nilza brought several more children's books to the table, and Maria took some tracing 
paper and began tracing the pictures in the book. Nilza smiled proudly and said in 



154 

Portuguese, "She always must have a pencil and paper in front of her. She always loves 
to be drawing or writing on paper." 
Postscript, December, 2002 

Maria is now in second grade, and is an excellent student. Her reading and 
writing is equal to, if not better, than many American students. She loves school, has 
many American friends, and has been involved in a variety of extracurricular activities, 
such as dance and art. Maria told her teacher, and her parents have confirmed it, that they 
will return to Brazil during the summer school vacation. At that time, Nilza says that if 
Maria wants to stay in Brazil, they will leave her therein the care of relatives, and they 
will return to their jobs in the United States. 

Tatiane's familv 

Tatiane, the focal child, was three at the time of this research project. Her mother, 
Helena, had been an elementary school teacher in Brazil, and it was very important to her 
that both Tatiane and her older sister, Rafaela, do well in school. They had been in this 
country eighteen months at the time that I met them. Their father worked long hours, and 
so I rarely saw him. He had come to the United States ahead of the family to make 
preparations. Helena told me that they left Brazil for economic reasons, but they looked 
forward to the day when they could return to Brazil without the financial worries of the 
past. 

Helena, a quiet, introspective, dark-haired woman in her thirties, was working as a 
maid in a hotel on the island, despite her professional teaching background. Her pale 
skin and pulled back hair gave her round face an austere appearance that was softened by 
her gentle smile. 



155 

Neither Helena nor her husband could speak English. We conversed entirely in 
Portuguese. I taped two interviews with Helena. She seemed to want and need to tell me 
her "whole life story", as she put it. In the first interview her words poured from her, and 
part of what she said became the "story" told in the beginning of this dissertation, a story 
that embodies much of the anguish, suffering, joy, and hardship that I suspect is common 
among many Brazilians and other immigrants who move here. 

Tatiane's family lived in the upper level of a split-level ranch nestled in a grove of 
trees on a quiet dirt road, not far from one of the main roads. They had the good fortune 
to rent on a year-round basis. A single, older man lived on the lower level, and both 
families paid rent to an out of state landlord. Although they didn't have the entire house 
for themselves, they had a large eat-in kitchen, which opened from the living room. 
Down a hall were two side-by-side bedrooms, one for the parents and one for the 
children. 

The English television was on, and Helena told me that they could receive a 
Portuguese language channel and watch the Brazilian novellas. Tatiane, age four, and her 
sister Rafaela, age eight, sat quietly watching television. Tatiane sat at a television tray 
with a cup and a piece of cake for a snack, which she dunked, never taking her eyes off 
the television. 

Helena was able to work in the kitchen in close proximity to the girls who usually 
played in the living room, just a few feet away. This layout allowed Helena to be close 
enough to hear them easily while she worked in the kitchen. Helena was constantly 
listening for the children. When Tatiane called her mother from the kitchen, her mother 



156 

immediately came to the doorway, where she would have a brief word with Tatiane about 
the play in progress or something that was on the television. 

There were only a few books observable in the home, and a few home decorating 
and fashion magazines that came with the house. Helena said that she couldn't read any 
of them because they were in English. There were several religious children's videos in 
the home, and on several occasions the family invited me to join them as they watched 
the cartoon versions of Bible stories. They had purchased these videos at the Brazilian 
evangelical church in which Helena and her family had been members since they lived in 
Brazil. 

The magazine rack contained phone books, atlas, and three "coffee table books" 
in English. When asked, Mother said that they do not read the books, but that they came 
with the house. There was also a stack of three or four books, recipe books and National 
Geographic magazine on the lower shelf of the lamp table in the comer of the room next 
to the couch on the kitchen side. These, too came with the house, which the family rents 
furnished. In the very back, hidden against the wall was a stack of 33 LP records and a 
hardbound book on swing music. All that I could see of the house was totally 
immaculate. 

One day when I arrived there was no electricity in part of the house. Helena said 
she didn't know why, and she didn't know what to do about it. I looked for a fuse box for 
her, but none could be found. Access to the basement storage and utilities was behind a 
locked door and no tenants had a key. 

Only the bedrooms had electricity, and I found Tatiane and her older sister, 
Rafaela, watching television in their parents' bedroom. They were watching a video, a 



157 

Portuguese Bible story of Joseph and his brother, called^ Hunger for Home. The 
children watched the Bible story for a few minutes and then Tatiane ran into the kitchen 
for a snack. I followed and when she saw me she was surprised that I was there and she 
said in Portuguese, "Oh, I'm going there," as she pointed to the bedroom. I said, "Okay," 
and followed. Helena came in a short time later and began dusting the room. 

Helena paused in her work to tell me that the children loved this story, and she 
did, too. It was the biblical story of Joseph in a foreign land. In the story Joseph learned 
the language of the land, and he became a close friend of the king. But, despite his 
success, he still hungered to return to his homeland, for the chance to speak his own 
language, and to see his father again. 

The children continued to watch television from their parents' bed. Every few 
minutes one or the other of them would get up and leave the room and return a few 
minutes later with something to eat or drink ~ a cup of milk, a cold hot dog, a cupcake, a 
lollipop, or a cup of yogurt. 

The video ended and the children looked through a cache of videos next to the 
VCR and chose another. Helena said they buy religious videos in Portuguese at the 
Brazilian church. It is the Children's Bible Series. She told me the children love them. 
Tatiane lay on her parents' bed eating her chocolate cupcake. She got it all over her 
fingers and left a half eaten cupcake and crumbs on the bed and went into the kitchen. 
Her older sister pointed to the mess but didn't say anything. Then Tatiane returned and 
together they watched the Portuguese language video, Joshua and the Battle of Jericho. 

Tatiane, like most three-year olds reveled in being the center of attention. When I 
was quietly observing, Helena frequently engaged me in an adult discussion, such as "Is 



158 

it true that if a person is analfebeta^O it is impossible for them to learn English?" Or, on 
another occasion, "How do different climates in different parts of the world cause 
changes in people's skin quality?" Tatiane inevitably interrupted by tugging at her 
mother, jumping, or yelling until all eyes were upon her. 

Tatiane played with dolls, paints, crayons, and small construction toys, e.g. tinker 
toys and Legos. She played with her sister, Rafaela, if she was home from school. 
Tatiane, a very independent little girl, left me feeling a little nervous on one occasion, 
after she brought a plate with two burning votive candles on it, into the living room. She 
put it on the floor near the curtains. I held my breath, hoping that one of the airy shears 
would not touch the lip of the flame. Then I breathed a sigh of relief as she blew them out 
nonchalantly and took them back into the kitchen. 

One day when I arrived Helena told me that Tatiane was still in school, and we 
went together to pick her up. Rafaela came along with us. When we arrived at the 
preschool, we found that the children were out taking a walk. The teacher said we could 
go and meet them and pick up Tatiane, but Helena didn't want to because Tatiane loved 
to take walks. 

There was a sign posted about Parent/Teacher conferences. I explained this to 
Helena and offered to translate at a conference for her, and she said that she would like 
that. When I explained this to the teacher I learned that Maria, the Brazilian Head Start 
home visitor, had already arranged to do this. Helena had either forgotten or she didn't 
realize what it was that Maria had arranged for her. 



1^ Analfabeta is the Brazilian term for a person who has had no contact with the alphabet. It is far more 
profound than the term "functional Hteracy" which is used in the United States to denote a person who 
cannot read well enough to function independently. 



159 

One day when I arrived, Helena was teaching Tatiane how to make her letters. 
Sitting on the floor beside the coffee table in the living room, Helena explained that 
Tatiane received a Barney game for Christmas, and then she had asked Helena to teach 
her how to make her letters. I asked if she was learning this in school and she said no. 
Helena said they only drew and did art in school. Tatiane made her letters in capitals on 
a lined, spiral-bound tablet. She filled the space between the two lines and formed the 
letters very perfectly. Helena stayed by her side and encouraged her, saying, "That's 
right," "That's very good," and "That's perfect," all in Portuguese. After a while, 
Helena said, "OK, now you can do it." Helena explained that she makes the letters in 
dots for Tatiane to connect. 

One day when I arrived, Helena was in the kitchen preparing dinner. Tatiane, 
who had been setting on the living room floor having a snack of milk and cookies, 
silently went to her room after she finished eating. She returned a few minutes later with 
a dollhouse, and set it up in the living room. At first Tatiane just sat with her toys in front 
of her watching television. Then she began playing. Helena came in the room to pick up 
her snack dishes and stopped a minute to listen to Tatiane who was describing the tiny 
dolls she had arranged in the dollhouse. After Helena went back into the kitchen, the 
sounds of chopping, the sizzle of oil frying, the whir of a blender, and the click of utensils 
could be heard. The pleasing aroma of dinner being prepared wafted through the house. 

At one point, Tatiane who was on the floor with her feet up on the couch, called 
to Helena who came to the doorway. There was an exchange about Mickey Mouse and 
Disney World. Then Helena returned to her cooking. 



160 

Tatiane, still on the floor, began to play with a dog pull-toy. She said in English, 
"Come here, Dog," and pulled the yapping toy behind her. Her play soon extended into 
the kitchen area where she played with the toy pulling it back and forth from the kitchen 
and to the living room. Then she and her sister began to play with the toy dollhouse and 
little people, all the while chattering in Portuguese. Tatiane began putting people into the 
house through the chimney and counting each one as she put it in. 

Helena came into the room, noticed that it was getting dark, and turned on the 
lights. Tatiane continued to play with her doll house dolls, creating Portuguese dialogue 
for them. She called to her mother that she wanted more dolls. Then she went into her 
room several times, each time returning with more "little people". She lined them all up 
in a row. She had a dog, a cowboy, a girl, a boy and a man. She then played with them, 
putting them into the house and arranging them. 

Helena ignored me while she continued preparing dinner. Tatiane took the dolls 
out again, put them in a row and counted them again, this time in English. Next Tatiane 
played a game in which she took the string from the pull-toy and threaded it through a 
slot in the dollhouse. Then she opened the roof of the house to expose a mirror and a 
second floor bedroom in the house. Tatiane then put all the little dolls inside. 

All the while, Mother could hear everything and came into the room when they 
called. The phone rang and Tatiane answered it. It was their father. Tatiane talked to him 
in a voice that seemed too loud for such a small person, and she told him all about me 
sitting in the living room writing on my pad. 



161 

Helena left the house to get her husband from work, and I stayed with the girls. 
They took me into their bedroom and showed me all their stuffed animals. They pulled a 
racing car set and track, and a tinker toy set from under their twin beds. 

Soon the children had set up an entire racetrack in their room and were driving 
their cars on it. They had a disagreement about the way it was set up, and Rafaela picked 
up the entire set of tracks and re-laid all of them. While she was doing this Tatiane 
repeatedly launched the racing cars into her backside. Rafaela ignored her, and then 
Tatiane got up threw Tatiane 's coat on the floor. The children spoke sometimes in 
Portuguese and sometimes in English, as they played, and explained their play to me. 

Then Rafaela emptied her backpack and began pulling out a crumpled mass of 
papers that she showed to me. One of these was a newsletter from the school, explaining 
the importance of the parent-teacher's conferences and what parents can do to prepare for 
them. The newsletter was in English. The television, which was now only a faint 
vibration from the living room, was still on, but apparently no one paid it the least 
attention. Then Rafaela began to teach Tatiane how to add, using her fingers to count, 
such as "See 2 plus 3 equals five," and then, "How much is 5 plus 5?" And she showed 
her how to do this with her fingers. This was all in Portuguese. 

One day the children were playing at the coffee table in the living room with a 
pile of costume jewelry. I had called earlier in the day to try to change the appointment, 
but Rafaela answered and said her mother was in the bathroom. When I arrived, Helena 
asked if I had called and said that she had been called in to work and she was not home 
when I called. 



162 

Helena was busy in the kitchen and Rafaela braided Tatiane's hair. They took all 
the earrings and arranged them in pairs. They played with elastic ponytail holders and 
the jewelry. They had a pair of earrings shaped like flowers, another pair shaped like 
leaves, two shaped like half loops, and a fourth pair of red love knots. They also played 
with two brooches, one of a brightly colored toucan and the other of a parrot. 

Tatiane took the earrings back out of the bag and arranged them in rows on the 
coffee table. Helena came in and participated in the play with the girls. Tatiane needed 
help trying to put on a brooch. Rafaela picked up a magazine, "Martha's Vineyard 
Wedding Book," and began to flip through it, then tossed it on the sofa. Tatiane took all 
the jewelry and put it in a zip lock bag on a wooden TV tray. 

From the living room where I sat with the children, I could see another woman 
working in the kitchen. Tatiane asked me to put some earrings on her and I did. Helena 
was in another part of the house. The children played quietly together in living room, 
while the other woman worked in the kitchen. 

Usually the girls spoke in Portuguese, but sometimes they interspersed their 
conversations with English "formulaic expressions" such as "Excuse me," "Please," or 
"Thank you". The two children had a great time laughing and saying, "1 ,2,3, go," in 
English, and then they threw stuffed animals at each other, catching them or chasing after 
the ones that landed on the floor. After a while, Tatiane lay down on the bed and 
whimpered because her animal was on the floor. Rafaela lay down with her, and then 
retrieved her animal for her. 

On one of my visits, Tatiane answered the door. When I came in Helena was at 
the kitchen table cutting vegetables, a few feet away from the children who were playing 



163 

in the living room. They had a large towel laid on the floor, and were playing with a toy 
peg board and plastic pegs with large knobs atop each one. A structure of small Lego's 
cormected together was on the same table as the television and directly in front of it. An 
open bag of potato chips lay on the floor. 

Tatiane coiled around in the easy chair and, like a snake, squiggled onto the floor. 
Next she jumped up, got back up on the chair, and stood with her legs, one on each arm 
of the chair. She then jumped down and took her dog pull-toy into the kitchen where she 
whirled it around on the floor. Helena took note and told her to be careful, but she made 
no attempt to interfere. However when Tatiane swung the dog into the kitchen table leg. 
Mom went into the kitchen and told Tatiane to bring the dog into the living room. 

On one of my visits, Tatiane brought out a photo album and we talked all about 
the pictures of her family in Brazil. There were photos of past birthdays and vacations 
and photos of friends, cousins, aunts, and uncles. 

Helena asked me about kindergarten. She heard that children may enter 
kindergarten at five years of age in the U.S. She said Tatiane would be five in March, so 
we agreed she would be old enough to begin school the next September 

One day, Tatiane sat at the coffee table painting some drawings she had made. All 
the pictures were of apple trees with a tree trunk, a cloud of green leaves above and filled 
with red apples and the background of a blue sky. Helena commented on the blue color 
of the sky that Tatiane painted. Tatiane turned her painting upside down onto a towel that 
had been laid out to protect the table. She carefully smoothed it with her hand to remove 
the excess water. 



164 

Helena warned, "Don't get the table dirty," in Portuguese. Tatiane began painting 
again. She put drops of red water color on the paper and took a sipping straw and blew a 
design on the paper. Then suddenly she started screaming that she wanted the 
paintbrush! From the kitchen, both Mother and Father said in unison, "Tatiane!" Tatiane 
took the brush, quieted down, and painted a tree with a yellow trunk and blue and red 
leaves. 

Helena came in from the kitchen and told her to play quietly. Then she spoke to 
me and said in Portuguese "How different children are here. They have more 
independence." She talked about how her children would go to the refrigerator and help 
themselves when they were hungry. She said that in Brazil the children were totally 
dependent on their parents for everything. She told me she thought the American way 
was better because the children would grow up independent. She said that she knew 
Brazilians who, even as adults, were totally dependent on their parents for everything. 

One day Helena pointed out that Tatiane often played by herself and talked to 
herself at play. Helena proudly told me how quickly Tatiane learned her letters and that 
she (Helena) had been a teacher who taught children reading and writing in Brazil. In the 
middle of our conversation, Tatiane interrupted and shouted at her mother. She wanted 
something "NOW!" Mom said quietly but firmly, "Look how you talk." 
Postscript, December, 2002 

Tatiane is in the second grade and working at grade level. She is completely 
fluent in English. She is forgetting how to speak Portuguese and English is now her 
dominant language. She cannot read at all in Portuguese. In class, Tatiane loves to be 
the center of attention and raises her hand to speak at every opportunity. She complains 



165 

vehemently if she feels that she has not had her rightful turn to speak in class. She is 
confident and self-assured, and there appears to be little doubt in her mind that she 
always knows better than anyone else. 

Rosa's family 

The first three times I went to Rosa's home to meet her (accompanied by and 
arranged by Mary, the Head Start Home visitor) no one was home. The family lived in a 
large, two-story, seven-room house, which they rented during the winter months. Rosa 
lived with her mother, Denise, her stepbrother, Gilberto, and her father who was never 
present during any of my home visits. 

As I entered the living room, I found an open floor plan in which the kitchen, 
living room, and dining area flowed into a single unobstructed space, free of dividing 
walls. Furniture was judiciously placed to separate one area from the other, without 
imposing a feeling of enclosure. There was a hallway that went out from this open area 
to three more rooms. Rosa had her own room, as did her older brother who was in high 
school. In addition to the family, another adult in the household lived in a room on the 
second floor. 

Rosa, the three-year old Head Start child, was born in the United States. 
Prominently displayed in the living room was a framed baby picture and newspaper 
article of Rosa, who had been the first baby born on Martha's Vineyard in the year of her 
birth. In the comer of the room near the kitchen was a table with photos of children and 
underneath was a shelf that was filled with magazines and a soft-cover book. I later 
learned that the book was one that Mary had left on a previous visit Positive Discipline. 



166 

In the book pile were many catalogs and other unidentified books. Next to the television 
and VCR was a cabinet filled with videotapes. 

Denise was bom in Brazil and had lived eight years in United States when I met 
her. She said that she originally left Brazil because of economic reasons. She first lived 
in Boston for two and a half years. Denise had come here with her two children, and she 
supported them by working in various jobs. She had worked on the island as a 
housekeeper in a hotel, as a cook in a restaurant, and at the time of my home visits owned 
a store. 

Denise did not say what kind of educational background she had in Brazil. She 
talked instead about the difficulties of trying to earn enough money to support her 
children in Brazil where she had worked in a series of jobs. She had been a dressmaker 
who sold clothes out of her home. She sold lottery tickets for a while, and later she 
worked in a gambling hall. She said that she was afraid to go back to Brazil because she 
had been away a very long time. Her fear was that at 30 years old, and without a 
profession she would not be able to support herself "If you want to work in Brazil," she 
said, "you have to have a profession." 

Denise told me that she also had a thirteen-year old daughter who had lived here 
with her, but had returned to live with her grandmother in Brazil. Denise sent her there 
because she worried about her getting into trouble as a teenager in America. Denise was 
afraid she might experiment with drugs. She told me that her daughter was happy in 
Brazil. 

On one of my visits, Mary, the Head Start home visitor, was there when I arrived. 
She was threading beads with Rosa while she and Denise had a conversation about 



167 

housing. Denise was upset because they had rented a house, and when the landlord saw 
they were Brazilian he said the rent was higher. The coffee table was laid out with 
colored string and beads of various shapes and colors. Rosa took some beads over to 
Denise and gave them to her to string. 

Then Denise took a piece of plastic lace, and showed her how she could make a 
necklace by taking the shoelace, threading it with lifesavers, and then wearing it around 
her neck. Rosa and Denise made a necklace together. When they were finished Rosa 
wore it, and then she ate some of the lifesavers from it. Rosa talked to her in Portuguese 
while they worked. Then Rosa started naming the colors on her necklace in English — 
pink, purple, yellow, green, and white. 

The "ABSeas" game and the children's book Jump, FroR, Jump were on the floor 
next to Mary's chair. It appeared that she had brought them with her. 

Mary asked Rosa to find the jelly beans that were mixed with beads in a bag. 
Mary and Denise helped her put them in the plastic bucket and count them as she dropped 
them. If Rosa had trouble finding them all then they coached her, saying, "Where's the 
orange one?" or "the purple one?" etc. 

Mary said, "Now, Rosa, can you find all the purple ones and put them in?" This 
was all in English. Mary speaks only English, but this was not a problem since Denise 
and Rosa speak English. 

After all the pieces were put away, Mary said to Rosa, "Do you want a story?" 
And Rosa climbed up in the chair with Mary, and Mary read to her. Denise sat across 
fi-om them and watched them. 



168 

After the story Mary talked to Rosa about the frog in the story and asked 
questions such as, "What did the frog do?" "When?" And other questions about the story. 

Then Mary left and Rosa lay down on the floor. Denise pretended to try to pick 
her up and could not, saying she was too heavy. Then Rosa came to me and said she fell 
and hurt her chin, and she pointed to the spot. Denise moved behind the counter into the 
cooking area and sang "Rosa, Rosa" and she made up a song about Rosa while she 
worked around the kitchen. 

After this, Rosa became interested in me. "Eu nao sou Brasileira," (I'm not 
Brazilian) she said. "I'm 'American e Brasileira,'" she said blending English and 
Portuguese into one statement. Denise started saying gender related pronoims in 
Portuguese: "Tia" (aunt), "Primo" (male cousin), and "Irmazinho que vai nascer" (little 
brother to be bom). Rosa was to answer Brasileira or Americana or Brasileiro or 
Americano. Rosa became fascinated with the difference in the use of pronouns in the 
language. Why, in English, is cousin, or American, or Brazilian, the same word, 
regardless of whether it refers to a male or female? She showed that she knew that in 
Portuguese, the ending of the word changed, depending on the gender of the person. 
Rosa and Denise continued playing this spontaneous bilingual word game while Denise 
busied herself cooking, while a succulent aroma permeated the living area. 

On another visit, Denise was sitting on the couch watching English television 
when I arrived. Rosa was playing at coffee table with her See 'n ' Say game. She came 
over and showed me the animals in the game. After that, she climbed up on the oak 
dining room table and sat on top of her father's valise. In English she named all the 
animals in the See 'n ' Say and then switched to the "Old Macdonald" song. She used the 



169 

animal sounds from the See 'n Say as the animals in the song. When she was finished 
singing, she showed me the Yamaha synthesizer which was also on the table, and she told 
me that it was her father's. 

Next Rosa showed me her playroom. On the floor of her room was a box of 
"Click Art" with the user manual inside. There was a box of Play Doh in the room with 
the original packaging. A birthday card was on her bureau. She invited me to sit down on 
the floor, which I did and then she picked up a finger puppet and walked it up my back 
and onto my head. 

She had a big playhouse, a child-sized piano, and a big truck. Suddenly she began 
-speaking in Portuguese to me and showed me the toy bus being driven by Ernie and a 
stuffed bimny. A moment later, she switched back to English and opened the bus to show 
me the stuffed animals inside. I always responded to Rosa in the language in which she 
spoke to me. Then she picked up the small bunny which was a finger puppet. She 
cradled the puppet in her arms and said, "She's a baby," in English. 

Then she took her stuffed animals and used them like puppets. She provided the 
voices for them to talk to each other. When she started to climb up on top of the house, I 
said, "No, perigoso" (Dangerous). Then she said, "It's not perigoso," mixing English and 
Portuguese. 

Then she took out her styrofoam letters. She lined up "WYINL", all the letters she 
found, and said, "It spells music." Next she showed me two water balloons she had and 
said, "There's water right here," and held them both and said, "Two water." Then she 
bounced them on the floor and slapped them and bounced them again. I asked where she 
got them, and she said her mother made them. 



170 

She said, "I have a family ~ Mom and Dad and Roberto and Denise. I have a 
sister, Teresa. And now I have a friend, Marcos." Then switching to Portuguese, she 
said, "Ele mora no Brazil." (He lives in Brazil). She continued to mix her comments in 
Portuguese and English, as she played. 

She showed me another balloon without water and said, "You wait right here, I go 
show Mom." Then she went to her mother in the kitchen, and I heard her ask her to put 
water in the balloon. I couldn't hear Denise's response, but a few seconds later, Rosa 
came back and said, "Olha aqui. Ela vai por agua depois." (Look here. She's going to 
put water in it later.) Then she said, "Look here, agua (water)," again, mixing English 
and Portuguese. 

Then she took the cat finger puppet and the little stuffed dog and made them fight 
together arguing with each other in English. Suddenly she switched to Portuguese and 
said to me in Portuguese, "The cat ate the dog." 

She pointed to a stack of Birthday Cards and said in English, "Two letters," and 
took the cards and the envelopes and she held them out to me and said, "I have letters." 
She had a large spiral bound book made fi-om construction paper. There were two boxes 
wrapped in Christmas decorations and she said to me in English, "These are presents - 
not opened." 

She picked up a watch and put it on her wrist and said, "It's a clock." Then in 
Portuguese, she told me the watch was her cousin's. She looked at the watch and said, 
"Cinco horas eu vou em minha casa," (At five o'clock I am going home), and then she 
went into her playhouse. 



171 

She went into the playhouse and invited me to come in with her, but I told her I 
couldn't come in because I'm too big. She gathered more stuffed animals and took them 
into the playhouse with her. I could see through the doorway that there was a small 
kitchen inside. She closed the door and said, "Wait right here." I heard dishes clanking. 
Then she opened the door and said, "Here's some food" and offered me a child-sized 
saucer. I pretended to eat from it and she seemed satisfied. 

One of my visits was on the coldest day of the year. When I arrived Rosa was 
watching cartoons. A teenage boy, whom I later learned was her brother, Gilberto, was on 
the couch and loud rock music was playing from a boom box. He turned it off when I 
arrived and went into the kitchen and started eating out of the refrigerator. A few 
minutes later Denise came downstairs. Her hair was wet, but neatly combed. She sat 
down on the couch next to Rosa. The cartoons were in English and the characters were 
counting. Rosa and Mom laughed as they counted together with the cartoon characters. 

Gilberto was looking in the refrigerator and he called "Mommy" in English. Then 
Denise came in the living room with the boy and she carried the phone book and a pen 
and he had an appointment book. Then he put it on a side table and they had a discussion 
about dinner. What were they going to have for dinner? They decided on pizza. Rosa 
picked up the yellow pages and began searching for take-out food. 

There followed a bilingual conversation between Denise and Gilberto as they 
continued to talk about ordering dinner. "Nao tem nada aqui (there's nothing here), 
Gilberto" Rosa told him. She looked at him and said, "It's not in the book." 

Then she picked up a carryout menu from a local deli. There was a list of 
sandwiches. She spoke in Portuguese, as she read to him from the English menu. "Tem 



172 

Steak and Cheese,"(They have steak and cheese), and she read down the Hst of 
sandwiches on the menu. 

A few minutes later Denise was the on phone ordering in Enghsh. She spoke to 
him in English. "I like eggplant," and she asked if he like it too. He answered that he did, 
and the conversation continued in Portuguese. Then he took the portable phone and 
dialed it. He called and asked if they deliver. Then he hung up and told Denise they 
didn't deliver. The two of them huddled over the phonebook trying to decide where they 
would order their evening meal. 

Rosa lay silently on the couch watching the cartoon show and sucking her thumb. 
The phone rang and in Portuguese Denise arranged a date and time with the person on the 
phone. She hung up, and Denise and Gilberto continued talking about dirmer. Soup? 
Hot dogs? What would they have? 

The phone rang again and Denise answered. The conversation was in Portuguese. 
Denise talked about her job, that Rosa had been sick, and the weather was terribly cold. 
Gilberto sat watching television alongside Rosa. When Denise got off the phone she said, 
"She had a little girl," in Portuguese to Gilberto. 

Then cartoons ended, and Denise said that she heard that a woman of 53 years old 
had triplets. Then she turned her attention to Rosa who was at the window, looking at the 
snow outside. They began breathing on the window to create a "slate" to write on the 
fogged window. Together they drew a cross. They talked about the snow, and Rosa said 
she wanted to go outside and make a snowman. 



173 

Denise made some soup with noodles and hot dog sUces and brought the bowl in 
the living room. While Rosa played, Denise fed the soup to her, blowing on each 
spoonful to cool it and feeding it to Rosa one spoonful at a time. 

Rosa noticed me writing and asked what I was doing. I said, "I'm writing on my 
paper." Then she ran out of the room and came back with a foam letter R and said in 
Portuguese, "Write my name." I took the letter R and traced it on my paper and she got 
excited and said, "Do another," in Portuguese. And we did this again and again, until I 
made four R's. Then she pointed to each and said, "Rosa." 

This quickly turned into a game in which she brought letters to me to trace. 
Meanwhile every few minutes Denise gave her a spoonful of soup. Rosa continued to 
run back and forth to her room getting more letters for me. She got really excited and 
screamed when she saw the letter "E", because "E" is for her Grandmother Ericema. 

Another day when I arrived, the television was on, but Rosa was at the counter 
helping her mom make dirmer. Then she showed me her new pet bird in its cage. We 
looked at him together, and she explained that her Dad bought it. She told me that he was 
a boy bird and he slept inside a little birdhouse in his cage. She showed me the little place 
for his bath, his swing to play, and his seeds to eat. His name was Louie. Then we sat on 
the couch and Rosa watched English cartoons on the television. Denise continued 
cooking. Louie chirped intermittently, and Rosa looked in his direction when he did. 

Denise was busy in the kitchen. The pressure cooker was hissing in the 
background, and the aroma of delicious-smelling food permeated the house. 

Denise and I talked. We were planning a family literacy program for all of the 
research participants, and she wanted to talk about the other families. She wanted to 



174 

know who they were. Did she know them? Then the conversation changed to a 
discussion about discrimination, and Denise said she had not experienced much 
discrimination on Martha's Vineyard. Denise wanted to talk about housing on the island 
because she wanted to buy a house, and the procedures are very different from those in 
Brazil. 

On another visit I arrived at the house and Gilberto answered the door and told me 
that Denise was not at home. I was about to leave when she drove up and said, "I'm on 
my way to the store. Want to come?" I got in the back seat of the car with Rosa who 
was in a car seat. 

Rosa, confined to her car seat, showed me her red shoes. She wanted me to 
vinbuckle her seatbelt, and she became angry and pouted because 1 would not. Finally I 
gave her my magnifier glasses to play with, and she was happy again. 

We headed off to the store, and the conversation turned to cars. Denise had a 4- 
wheel drive truck with a back seat; but she said there wasn't room for 2 car seats and she 
was pregnant. She would need another car once the baby came. 

We arrived at the store and unloaded bags of supplies for the shelves. The store 
was a small grocery that specialized in Brazilian canned and packaged foods, condiments, 
dried meats, sausages, and other Brazilian staples. 
Postscript, December, 2002 

Shortly after the end of the project, Rosa's baby brother was bom. A year later, 
Rosa's parents finally were able to purchase their own home. When Rosa entered 
kindergarten she appeared to be working at grade level. However, she has fallen behind 
and is now struggling to keep up with her first grade work. According to her teachers the 



175 

main issue with Rosa is that she is absent an average of twice a week. The school has 
made numerous attempts to communicate their concerns about her absences to Denise. 
Although she has indicated that she understands and that Rosa will come to school more 
often, there has been no change in her attendance. 

Summary 

There is no one single profile that can be applied to the Brazilians living on 
Martha's Vineyard. As we shall see from their interviews, the Brazilian families in this 
study, like their Brazilian immigrant counterparts in other parts of New England and the 
United States, lived as low middle class professionals in their native country. They had 
the financial means, as well as the knowledge and social connections, to move 
themselves and their families to this country. The pressures of unemployment and 
government corruption have caused some Brazilians to make the life-changing decision 
to leave the country to which they are inextricably tied through their love of their families 
and their pride in their identity as Brazilians. 

As I got to know these families and observed the fabric of their daily lives, I was 
struck by the obvious affection that family members shared with one another. There was 
a feeling of freedom in expressing affection and love openly to one another. These were 
caring, warm families in which the children were often the center of attention. 

In the next chapters I will unfold the tapestry of their lives as they shared them 
with me during the months of my visits to their homes, and how their family experiences 
may be linked to their children's language and literacy development. 



176 
Chapter VI: Learnings from Interviews 

Introduction 

The parents in this study made tremendous sacrifices to bring their famiUes and 
themselves here. In Brazil, they lived surrounded by friends and family with whom they 
shared their lives and who formed a network of support for them. But financial pressures 
brought on by lack of employment, with little hope of improvement, drove them to leave 
homeland, family, and even, for a time, their children. Then when they arrived here, they 
were faced with the additional isolation of not being able to speak the language of the 
dominant culture and, therefore, unable to easily access many of the resources of 
America. They became like children, unable to communicate, confounded by customs 
and traditions that seemed disconnected from their ovm values. Yet despite the many 
difficulties they have encountered, they have remained here and they have seen their 
children reap the rewards of their sacrifice. 

Why they left ~ life is difficult in Brazil 

The Brazilian immigrants in this study, coming from a country in which people 
feel great pride in their uniqueness among nations, must feel a tremendous shock in being 
separated from their native country; and yet they chose to leave family, friends and all 
that is familiar to them. Paradoxically, although they leave their families to move to 
America, their reasons for leaving are inextricably tied to their loyalty and devotion to 
their families. Unemployment, financial distress, and crime, as a result of corruption, 
inefficiency, and lack of social justice in government led to a situation that became 
unlivable for the families in this study. 



177 



Economic reasons. 

Denise has been in this country since 1991 . She lived for the first two and a half 
years in Boston, and then she moved to Martha's Vineyard. She spoke softly of how 
difficult it was to live and raise a family in Brazil. 

It was very difficult to survive. The economy was not good, and 1 lived with my 

mother. I had two children, and 1 had to work, and I earned very little. It was not 

enough to give my children a good upbringing. 

Denise heard about Boston from her sister who lived there, and so she came. She 
explained that for years she had tried to eke out a living for herself and her children by 
making and selling clothes in Brazil. When she moved to Boston, she easily found work, 
for which she considered herself to be well-paid. She worked at a restaurant, a dry 
cleaner, a hospital, as a housekeeper, and she eventually opened a Brazilian store on 
Martha's Vineyard with her husband. 

It was also very difficult for Helena and her husband to survive on what they 
earned in Brazil. "Think about it. I worked there as a teacher and made 200 reals per 
month . . . what now is worth some 100 dollars." 

In Brazil Helena's husband worked at a milk cooperative in the city, where he 
earned 300 reals per month, which at the time was equivalent to some 150 dollars, per 
month. Helena found that even during a period when she was well-paid as a teacher they 
still couldn't survive. "There was a period of time when I made 800 reals per month . . . 
That was good money there . . . but here we can make 400 dollars in a week." Those 
were the good times in Brazil for Helena. 



178 

Eduardo also left Brazil for financial reasons. Although he didn't elaborate, he 
said that he wanted to improve his financial situation. In Brazil he had worked in the 
accounting department of a Brazilian airline. 

A better life for their children 

For Helena it was worries about her children that finally drove her to accept 
emigration. Their economic situation was such that she and her husband had to work 
very long hours. Their children stayed at their grandparents, and she felt that she was 
losing them. 

Helena recounted, 

I worked fi^om 1 :00 to 5:30 and from 7:00 at night to 1 1 :30. At night my husband 
stayed with the children . . . and during the day they stayed at their grandparents' 
house. So I was losing control. The older one was already beginning to disobey 
me. You know. It was because she was at her grandparents' house all the time. 
Helena, in sharing about their decision to come to America, described her 
husband's intense desire to provide a better life for their children. She remembered him 
saying '"I want so much to give our daughters a good house. I want so much for them to 
have a good education,'" and then she added, "Because you know in Brazil a good 
education is very expensive." 

Nilza summed it up like this: "There are few jobs in Brazil. You don't have what 
you need in Brazil. You do not have money." 

Government corruption in Brazil. 

Sabrina also told me that her family moved here because of the job situation in 
Brazil. The bank where her husband worked failed, and he lost his job. He found a job 



179 

working for the city as an accountant, but when the new mayor was elected he lost that 
job, too. Sabrina explained that, "In Brazil we have mayors every year. The party, that is 
the mayor, changes; and then they change all the employees. When the new mayor takes 
office, he hires people from his own party." 

So it was unemployment that was exacerbated by political patronage that finally 
induced them to emigrate. Sabrina' s husband had previously worked on Martha's 
Vineyard for one summer. His employer remembered him, and when he heard about his 
situation, he called him and said, "Oh, come here. Come here. I will apply for a green 
card for you and your family. Bring your family here to live." So he came. 
Helena also talked about the corrupt government in Brazil as being 
institutionalized, and unlikely to change. 

If you want to be able to have a better life and give a better life to your child, you 
have to make some kind of change for yourself, instead of waiting for others, the 
government to change things. To wait for the president to change, to wait for a 
good president in Brazil, you know, with so much corruption, with so much lack 
of caring for others, you will get old and nothing will change. 
Helena and her husband decided to change what they could change, and since 
they couldn't change the government, they decided to change the country where they 
lived. 

Social Injustice. 

Nilza bemoaned the way those who have political power take advantage of the 
situation for their own personal gain at the expense of others. "It is government, 



180 

politicians, government personnel . . . They all exploit others. You know. There is a lot 
of social injustice." 

Denise, too, lamented the lack of adequate social justice policies in Brazil, 
especially "the respect for the elderly and children." According to Denise, "In Brazil if 
you are over 30, you can't get a good job. . . The old in Brazil are not valued. After the 
age of thirty you don't have value". 

Denise was concerned for the plight of both the children and the elderly in Brazil. 
"I get sad when I see on the television that the children there are on the street, needing 
help. You do find people who help, but one person alone cannot help everyone." Denise 
went on to clarify that when she talks about this lack of value for children she means the 
poor and the lower middle class. The children and elderly of the rich are valued. 

Nilza also spoke of discrimination and lack of rights and the effects of ageism in 
the workplace. "My husband is 35, and in Brazil. . . . When a person reaches 40 years the 
work market closes its doors. . . They give preference to younger people." 

For Nilza' s husband, at the age of 35, after working for a company for 10 years, 
the doors to advancement were closed to him. He tried to find another job, but he 
experienced the same form of discrimination. The only job open to him paid half what he 
had previously been earning. 

Nilza also experienced discrimination. She was dismissed from her job because 
she married and became pregnant. She said that in Brazil they don't want married 
women in the workplace. They especially do not want women who have children. "They 
think that a woman who has a child takes problems to work, that if a child is sick, the 
woman won't go to work." 



181 

She said they can do this because of the huge amount of unemployment. There 
are plenty of people vying for the few jobs available. So employers choose only to hire 
younger people and only women who are unmarried. "I was unemployed for four years 
in Brazil, and he was trying to change jobs. He couldn't get anything. This was one of 
the reasons that we came here." 

Immigration is worth the pain. 

Helena hardly saw her children, and both she and her husband wanted desperately 
to provide a better life for them. Then they heard from her husband's sister that life in the 
United States was good. Finally they made the difficult to decision to emigrate. Helena 
remembers how she agonized over the decision, "the conversations that he had with me 
were always like this, sometimes, many times he even cried. You know. He said, 
'Helena, I would like so much to give something better to our daughters'." 

Helena had been filled with anxiety about her husband moving to the United 
States to work. "I know of a lot of people who come here, and the family is destroyed," 
she said. But she knew this was their only chance to build a better life for their family. 

For Nilza, the decision was also painful, but the lack of jobs, the government 
corruption, and the lack of social justice made family life there unbearable. Nilza says 
that even though they have had to go through a lot in order to make their life here, she 
believes that in the end it will be worthwhile for them. She spoke of her love for her 
country, saying she never thought she would want to leave. But now she says, "I believe 
that it is worth the pain. 

Coming to America was the fulfillment of a dream to make a better life for their 
families. Helena said: 



182 

I think everyone has this dream. You know, to achieve something. Our country is 
a very rich country, a beautiful country, a good place to live. Unfortunately I 
think that the government doesn't know how to administer our riches. This makes 
me very sad because we would like to have a country that was more developed, 
that was more humane in its treatment of people. 

Jobs, work and employment 

Too much work in America. 

It's possible that having family members nearby helps Brazilians to face the many 
challenges in their lives. It may be the support system they need so that they do not 
become overwhelmed by feelings of isolation due to their lack of access to the 
mainstream community. Perhaps their sense of longing for their families in Brazil 
sustains them in the long hours they work in jobs. Once they get here, their life 
continues to be a life of work with little time for leisure. They work hard for the sake of 
their families, and yet in some cases their hard work and long hours keep them from their 
families. 

Sabrina works two jobs, but she doesn't want to do it anymore. "I have two jobs, 
two, but now this summer I'm only going to clean houses so I can come home earlier. 
You know. When you work in restaurants you get home very late, and so I'm going to 
stop." 

Nilza agrees that living and working in America has improved their ability to 
have a better life, but it has come at a price. "There is much more work, here, but little 
time for leisure" she says. She and her husband also work long hours. She explained how 
it had been for her husband, "Until one month ago my husband worked two jobs. . . He 



183 

left home early, and did not return until one in the morning. He worked straight 
through." 

Eduardo, too, spoke of his long hours and hard work for the sake of his family. 
"Here I have worked almost every Sunday." He also works holidays and nights. "I never 
worked at night in my country, and here I've almost always worked nights." The 
motivation is money. "When you're in a bad financial situation, he said, "You accept 
things." 

American emplovers and Brazilians. 

Helena feels satisfied with the rewards of her work in America. She feels that she 
is well compensated for her work. "Here you work, and you receive." In Brazil her 
husband worked hard, but made very little in return for his efforts. Helena believes that 
this is the reason that Brazilians come and will continue to come to the United States. 

Sabrina likes working for Americans. She talked about how their life improved 
because of their move here. It was challenging to come here, to overcome the 
difficulties, the mountain of paperwork and the legal and travel expenses. Fortunately in 
their case, her husband's employer applied for a green card for them. Sabrina said that 
they and other Brazilians who have come to the United States work hard. They, in turn, 
are usually respected and treated well by their American employers. 

Admitting that it was a rare occurrence, she related an incident that pained her 
"This week I was at a place here, and the owner of the hotel said he wouldn't hire 
Brazilians." Usually, though she finds that she and other Brazilians are respected and 
treated well in the workplace. "I think that all of us Brazilians are hard workers," and 
she believes that for this reason they are valued as workers here. 



184 

Nilza also is very satisfied with the way they are treated at their jobs here in the 
United States, although here they are both working in unskilled laborer positions, as 
opposed to their white-collar jobs in Brazil. "Everyone I have worked for has been 
excellent to me." She also said that her husband's American employer in the house 
painting business has treated him very well. 

Helena's experience working for Americans has also been good. She described 
how her employer uses an electronic translator to communicate with her and to help her 
to learn English. "Whenever there's a word she thinks that I don't understand . . . She 
checks with the translator, and I automatically go and write it down." 

Helena is grateful. She, too, has heard about discrimination, but says that she has 
not experienced it, "They treat me very well, but they say that it happens." 

Helena has also received help from her husband's American employers. This 
unexpected source of help has filled her with loyalty, and a desire to stay with these 
employers. When Helena had her miscarriage, it was her husband's employer who 
helped her, not her Brazilian sister-in-law. "I told my husband, I'm not going to look for 
another job for the summer, because I want to work there again, because I like to work 
there." 

Competitiveness for jobs among Brazilians. 

In Helena's experience, she did not receive the help that she expected from other 
Brazilians. She thought that her sister-in-law who worked cleaning houses, and was 
well-established here, would help her find work. She thought that at the very least she 
would help her to translate, but this didn't happen. Now, she says that she doesn't want 



185 

to work for Brazilians. "I'm Brazilian, but here, in the United States, it's better to work 
for Americans than to work for Brazilians." 

Helena described the competition for jobs among Brazilians. "Unfortunately, 
when it comes to jobs, Brazilians are not friends," she said. Instead, they compete with 
one another. "They want to take the jobs of other Brazilians. They gossip about each 
other." She feels that, when it comes to jobs, among Brazilians, "Friendship does not 
exist." 

Helena does not understand this. It seems to her that if a Brazilian hires another 
Brazilian, then they both would benefit. She sees instead, a kind of jealousy, in which 
Brazilians do not want to see other Brazilians achieve success. 

Life is better in America. 

When asked what they liked about America, the participants talked about the 
services and the help from the government that provides a better standard of living. The 
treatment of the poor, the elderly, children, education, and the higher standard of living 
brought by their jobs were all areas that they said made their life here better. 

Sabrina summed it up by saying that the benefits of earning a better living as well 
as having access to social services allows them to offer their children a better way of life 
here. 

In terms of the social aspect, here our life is better. We can give something better 
to our children. We also have more dignity. . . Here in the United States, it's 
better. You understand. In terms of security, in terms of studying, and even in 
financial terms, life is better. 



186 

America helps children and the elderly. 

In the United States life is better for children, the elderly, the poor, workers in the 
workplace. Denise talked about the government programs in the United States that make 
it possible for her to have a better quality of life for herself and her children than was 
possible in Brazil. In her opinion the United States government is concerned about the 
needs of children and the elderly. This is not the case in Brazil, according to Denise. 
She says that in Brazil the children and the elderly of the poor have nothing. 

In contrast, she has noticed that in the United States there are many older people 
who work and have jobs. She likes this and interprets this to mean that they are valued. 
"You go to the supermarket. There are lots of older people working. You go to an 
office. There are a lot of older people working. Everywhere you go there are older people 
working," she says. 

In Brazil, Denise says, "the old folks are sitting in chairs, doing nothing." She is 
impressed by the way the United States shows that the welfare of children and the elderly 
is important. She had this to say about it, "The raising of children, the value given to 
children, the value given to old people, to older people, it's very beautiful, really very 
beautiful. We don't have this in Brazil." 

America supports education. 

Eduardo sees the system of government that supports the schools in the United 
States as providing a better process for educating children. He talked about his daughter 
who had been attending the Montessori school for the previous two years. He explained 
that she had a partial scholarship to attend. "If it depended on me to pay the whole 



187 

monthly fee," he said. "I couldn't send her there". Without this assistance his daughter 
would not have been able to attend. 

He explained that to obtain this type of aid in Brazil would take a very long time. 
He adds that as time goes by, "the child loses out." In this country, the system is more 
efficient. The process is faster. His wife, Larissa, also pointed out that "Here, the 
government won't let children stay out of school. In Brazil, children sometimes don't go 
to school. 

Eduardo believes that the American schools are better because they teach more 
subjects. So he considers this to be an advantage for them. He said that, for example, 
children in Brazil who go to school "learn the basics, which would be Portuguese, 
mathematics, physics." 

He went on to explain that the schools in Brazil have split sections and a different 
course of studies is taught in these sections. "For example, there are two different 
schools, one to teach one area of studies and the other school to teach another." 

He explained that children go to school from 7:00 to 1 1 :00 in the morning. That 
school would be for one subject area. Then if a student wanted to learn something else it 
would be necessary "to matriculate in yet another school, a school specifically for what 
you want. For example, if I want my daughter to learn computers, I have to find a 
professional computer school." 

In Eduardo's opinion the pubUc schools in Brazil "don't work very well." He 
said that in Brazil, he would have to be better-off financially to be able to pay for a 
private school for his daughter to learn things which children here learn in the public 
school." 



188 

Life is better on Martha's Vineyard. 

Eduardo explained that Martha's Vineyard was a place that offered more than 
jobs. He found it to be a place of calm and quiet, unlike larger cities with mobs of 
people, always in a rush. He found people to be calm and courteous. For him, Martha's 
Vineyard was a safe place to raise a child. "The people are less crazy. You understand. 
If you compare the island with New York, it's very different. . . There my child could not 
go outside because of the traffic." 

He also feels that Martha's Vineyard is more relaxed and people are more patient 
and respectful than those he met in New York. He explained it this way: 

The lack of respect in a big city is greater . . . The Island of Martha's Vineyard is 
like a rural area. It is calmer. . . . And the laws here are also a little different than 
in other cities, than other states. . . . For instance, the maximum speed is 45 mph. 
You understand. If you see a child wanting to cross the street, you stop the car and 
let them cross. You know. Here people have more time for things. 

Brazilian Families — close but extended 

These Brazilian families, in talking about family life in Brazil, described the close 
affection that family members feel for one another. In Brazil their relatives and 
neighbors formed a support system to help with child-rearing. Loyalty and affection for 
family members seems to stand like a guiding light before these families. 

Closeness of the Brazilian family 

According to Eduardo in Brazil children stay with the families longer, partly 
because of financial reasons and partly because of their affection for their parents. 



189 

Family life in America is very different from family life in Brazil. Independence and self- 
sufficiency are not necessarily values to be strived for. He put it this way: 

It's closeness, it's affection, for both, because, let's suppose, if I as a Brazilian am 
in a bad financial situation, and if my child of 14 or 1 5 starts to work, he is 
thinking about helping the family, not getting away from us, you know. So he 
tries to help out; he lives with us longer. When I started to work at the age of 14, 
instead of separating, being independent, I became closer to my family because I 
could help them more. This was a part of my affection for them. 

Extended families together 

Even if grown children do not live in the same house as their parents, they still 
live very near to them. "It is like this," said Helena, "most children, normally when they 
marry, stay in the same city. . . On the weekends everyone goes to their parents' house 
for lunch." Everyone works together to help. "We also help out with what we can, 
because it's like everyone is one, nobody separates." By doing this, they not only help 
financially, but they also share parenting responsibilities. She told how this enabled the 
grandparents to help with parenting responsibilities. In fact Helena said that Tatiane 
considered her aunt to be her second mother. "Mom, I have two mothers, you and my 
aunt," Helena quoted Tatiane as saying. 

Closeness of life in small town Brazil 

Helena described how this help extended even to her friends and neighbors. In 
their small town in Brazil her mother and her friends helped her after her baby was bom. 
Helena was a teacher and had to work and so her mother and her friends took care of the 
baby because she didn't have a housekeeper. 



190 

Now Helena's father, who Hves in Brazil, is suffering from their separation and he 
is thinking about possibly moving to the United States. He wants to be near his daughter 
and her children. 

Sabrina has her relatives already living here in the United States. Her sister, her 
brother, and her mother are all here. Sharing a duplex seems natural to them. This is 
how they lived in Brazil. The sacrifices of leaving home have been worth it. Here she 
has her family, her home just as they would have been in Brazil; but now they have a 
better life and security for their children. Being able to be with her family is very 
important to her. She explained it like this. 

For Brazilians the family is everything. You understand, so I have some of my 
family here. My mother, two siblings, and my children are with me, and I thank 
god I have the privilege of living with just me, my husband and my children. I 
don't share my house with anyone else, you understand, so therefore, for me, my 
life is very good here. 

Sabrina was alluding to the fact that many Brazilian immigrants here share 
housing with other Brazilians who are not family members. At the time of this study, 
Nilza's family shared housing in this way and Nilza spent a great deal of effort looking 
for an affordable place where they could live without strangers. 

Challenges of immigration 

The families in this study faced a number of challenges related to their 
immigration status here in the United States. They were faced with the high cost of 
expenses related to travel and, especially obtaining proper documentation. They had to 
obtain visas, work permits, driver's licenses, and social security cards. For those with 



191 

school-age children, they also had to concern themselves with enrolling their children in 
school as well as attending to how the stress and loss of family ties might affect the 
emotional well-being of their children. On top of these things, they had to face the 
prospect of discrimination, humiliation, and abuse in the event that they did not follow 
American procedures properly. 

Expenses of inmiigration 

The finances were not easy and it was very difficult and costly for Sabrina to 
come to the United States. It has taken her two years to financially return from debt 
incurred by their immigration, and now she is spending more money on private tutoring 
lessons so that she can learn English. 

I paid a lot of money to come here, you understand. I didn't get here cheaply like 
some do. It was very expensive, so the first year I had to recoup the money that I 
spent to come here, you know. It is expensive because there is exploitation of 
people who come here. 

Visas 

Helena described the difficulties encountered by Brazilians from her state of 
Minas Gerais in acquiring the necessary documentation to come to America. She 
explained that there are so many immigrants from Minas Gerais (Mineiros) that the "The 
United States government knows . . . many Brazilians live here . . . and they don't want 
any more to come." She said that she recognizes many of these Mineiros and she knows 
that some of them have been here for fifteen years. According to Helena, they are legal 
and they intend to stay in the United States. Because there are so many immigrants from 
Minas Gerais, the United States Consulate in Brazil has been trying to stem the flow of 



192 

Mineiros into the United States. For this reason, Helena had a particularly difficult time 

obtaining a visa. Helena talked how difficult it was. 

It was a struggle . . . first of all because I am "Mineira" [from Minas Gerais]; 
because there are a lot of Mineiros here, so I think because of this it was very 
difficult. It took me almost three years to get one . . . For almost three years, my 
husband was here, and I was in Brazil trying [to get a visa] . . . Once you get to 
the consulate, and they see that you are Mineiro, they immediately decide not give 
you a visa. 

Social security cards 

Once they arrived here, they found that it is also a long and difficult process to 
obtain a social security card. Sabrina talked about it. 

I believe I will receive it within 90 days or so. It's been a long time since we sent 
the rest of the documents that were needed for social security card. . . . The lawyer 
already gave us a date, and said that we should have it by the end of the year. 
Sabrina explained that after the social security card arrives, there is an additional 
process that must be completed to obtain the work permit. She has thought about the 
implications of the difficulty in obtaining a work permit. In her opinion this is not only 
detrimental to the immigrants who need to work so they can eat, but it is also detrimental 
to the United States due to lost income taxes. "Many people have to wait ten years for 
it," she said, and in her next breath asks, "now how much has the government not 
collected from these people in income taxes?" She then went on to explain that once 
people have their work permit, they start to file tax returns. 



193 

Then she clarified that some people work with false documents because it takes so 
long to get the work permit. 

Many people work under false names, with fake social security numbers that are 

not even theirs. You understand, and nobody files tax returns. Who ends up 

losing? It is your own country. 

Sabrina explained that the process to obtain a work permit involves their 
employer who must sign for them. Since this process of allowing them to work legally 
can take a long time, there is a Brazilian "mafia" that will produce false documents for 
them. Sabrina believes that if the government here could expedite this process so that it 
could be completed more quickly, then this "mafia" would not exist. 
Therefore she thinks that "the government itself is at fault." 

So Sabrina and her family hired a lawyer to help them. In her family, they refuse 
to work illegally. She said that if they had not been assured that their documents were on 
their way, they would have returned to Brazil. It would have been intolerable for her and 
her family to live here illegally. They would have had to live in constant fear. If they had 
to live here illegally then they could never "live a normal life." She says "in the end, 
you would be, hurting your own children. You know. You can't even go out. You can't 
have a free life." 

Driver's Licenses 

She went on to say that "There is so much bureaucracy for those who are not, who 
are not legal in this country . . . For example, to get a driver's license, you understand. 
We wouldn't be able to get one." 



194 

False documents 

According to Sabrina, Americans make and sell various false documents, such as 
driver's licenses, to those Brazilians who are illegal. She has heard that "a driver's license 
sells for 400, 500, 800 dollars and up to one thousand dollars. People buy them." 
Sabrina has not been involved in any of this, however, as she has an international driver's 
license. "I drive with that." 

Discrimination and Abuse 

Sabrina considers herself lucky, though, because she has heard stories about 
people who have had problems with the international driver's license. She asserted that 
she had seen incidents "of people who have been imprisoned for having an international 
driver's license. The police even abuse people, laugh at people because of their driver's 
license. I think this is discrimination." 

She went on to say that people who are illegal in this country have no recourse if 
they are treated this way. They "are afraid of resorting to the courts. . . I have a friend 
who was arrested near Boston. The police officer ripped up his driver's license and threw 
it at him." 

School transfers and learning 

One of the quirks faced by Brazilians immigrants in this country is due to the fact 
that they come from south of the equator where the seasons are the reverse of what they 
are in the United States. This means the school year in Brazil runs from March to 
December. 



195 

Sabrina talked about her older daughter, now in fourth grade. She had been first in 
her class in Brazil. "When she arrived here at the school, it was very funny, because in 
Brazil it was the middle of the year and here the school year was about to start." 

Sabrina' s daughter had to repeat work that she had already done in Brazil. The 
school placed her in a class with another Brazilian so that someone would be able to 
interpret for her because she couldn't speak any English. So for this reason and because 
of the difference in the school year, Sonia went into the fourth grade instead of the fifth. 
According to Sabrina, her daughter was the best in her class in mathematics. She said 
that she already knew everj^hing that the teacher was teaching. 

Stress of immigration on children 

Sabrina spoke about her Head Start son's stuttering problems, which had recently 
started. She did not consider it unusual, but rather looked upon it as a normal result of 
the stress he was under in adapting to life in the United States and to the fact that he was 
a timid child by temperament. "It's not really normal, and yet it is normal, you 
understand, considering the differences in this place. You understand. I think that here 
Augusto is very afraid. He has always been a timid child." 

Parents and children living apart 

Denise talked about the difficulty of living away from her thirteen year old 
daughter and a son whom she hasn't seen since he was a year old, both of whom live in 
Brazil with her mother. Although Denise said that she herself has never returned to 
Brazil for a visit since she moved here to the United States, she sends money to her 
family in Brazil. She is able to provide her children a better standard of living because 
she lives here, and so this sacrifice has been worth it to her. 



196 

It's difficult, yes, but at the same time it's . . . comforting for me to know that I 
can give them what they need, send them to good schools, give them good food, 
good clothes, a good education, because I can send money to them there. If I 
lived there, I wouldn't be able to do that . . . And my son who lives with my 
mother will not leave her. He likes his grandmother very much. He has been with 
her since he was one year old. 

All alone in a strange place 

Although their improved financial situation has given them a higher standard of 
living, these Brazilian families described their feelings of isolation. A sense of isolation 
and distance from the mainstream American culture is in large part due to the inability to 
communicate and, therefore, to learn about the ways and culture of America. To 
compound matters further, Americans often mistakenly refer to Brazilians as Hispanics 
and speak to them in Spanish. This attitude conveys the message that the unique culture 
and character of Brazil is not important enough to be recognized as such. There is 
frequently isolation, even from other Brazilians in the community due to work schedules, 
and competition for jobs. There is also loneliness from the family in Brazil, and for the 
ways of Brazil. There is even, sometimes, the pain of separation of parents who are 
living in the United States while their children live in Brazil waiting for their parents to 
send for them. 

Isolation due to different culture and language 

One of the most obvious contributors to this sense of loneliness is the lack of 
ability to speak English. Sabrina spoke of how much she wants to take English classes, 



197 

partly so that she can meet other Brazilians, but also so that she will have the ability to 
communicate with and meet Americans. She, said, "When you can learn with other 
people, that is good; but when you don't speak the language it's almost impossible for 
you to communicate. It's difficult to get to know people." 

Eduardo explained that it is more difficult to mix with Americans, not only 
because of the language, but also because of cultural differences. An event as simple as 
being invited to a party at the home of an American can be a daunting experience. "For 
example, an American party is different from ours, so if I go I have to learn how to 
behave differently." 

Isolation due to work schedules. 

Another thing that contributes to the isolation of Brazilians, even from each other, 
is their work schedules. According to Eduardo, they work so hard here that they do not 
have time to mix with each other. 

First of all everyone doesn't have the same days off. Today I am off, but my 

neighbors are working. When they're off, I'm working. You know, sometimes we 

don't have much time. The schedules don't coincide, you know; and I think it 

may be because of this that we aren't more connected. 

In the winter, when jobs are scarce in this tourism-driven community, the cold 
weather and the lack of contact with other people are also very difficult. The isolation 
was especially poignant to Helena who had been accustomed to a very active lifestyle 
when she lived in Brazil. Here, in the United States, she wants a job just so she has a 
reason to get out of the house. "In Brazil I worked. I always worked. My life was always 



198 



busy. I was never home like I was this week. I am going crazy. I want to find a job so I 
can get out." 



Lack of support from other BraziUans. 

Helena talked about the disappointment she experienced as a result of the lack of 
encouragement, and moral support from other Brazilians. In speaking of other Brazilians 
she said that usually they do not help other Brazilians. Instead she says they are arrogant. 
Their attitude is, "I am here. I speak English. I don't need anything. ... I am me. I don't 
need help, because I know." Helena views this arrogance as an attempt by some 
Brazilians to put themselves in a position above the rest of the Brazilians. Existing 
literature has documented that Brazilian immigrants in Massachusetts are often in 
competition with one another for jobs, and they attempt to create a class system within 
the Brazilian community that mirrors the class system in Brazil (Martes, 2000). 

Unfortunately, Helena said that Brazilians here have this attitude and they should 
be helping each other instead. "We have moved to a different country. We are obviously 
in a country that is not ours . . . and still we don't help our brother." 

On the other hand, Helena sees that Americans recognize that hiring Brazilians is 
a benefit to them. 

They need me. I need my job, so each one does his part, and it's fair. So why 
don't the Brazilians here, who could give a job to another Brazilian, why can't 
they see this? I am going to give a job to so and so, because I need her help and 
she needs a job. But they don't see it like this at all. They are here. They have 
been here longer. They can give you a job, but what do they think? "Oh, I am the 



199 

great one, I have made it, and, I am not going to help them." So there is very Uttle 
friendship, very Uttle friendship among Brazilians here. 

Support system of the church. 

Helena was the person in my study who spoke most about the lack of support 
from other Brazilians. At the same time, she described how the Brazilian church had 
helped her when other Brazilians had not. Helena learned about Head Start at a Brazilian 
church meeting shortly after she arrived here from Brazil. Another woman in the church 
told her about the Head Start home visitor, Maria, who helped Helena find a preschool 
for Tatiane. On another day, it was a woman from this same church who called for help 
for Helena on the day of her miscarriage. 

Changes - all I see are changes 

Learning the American customs 

These Brazilian families were faced with many changes. They needed to adapt to 
a world v^th a system of values and beliefs that are different from those to which they 
were accustomed. 

For these families, the reality of being transplanted into a different culture, created 
a situation in which any event could become a learning experience. In even the simplest 
instances, these Brazilians learned that they would have to become accustomed to 
differences in the way things are done here if they were going to be successfiil. 

Helena, an elementary school teacher in Brazil, works as a house cleaner here in 
the United States. Even this seemingly simple occupation requires procedures that are 



200 

different from those in Brazil, and they need to be learned. Helena described the 

difference in how to clean a Brazilian house as compared to an American house. 

Our cleaning methods are different, because in Brazil, we don't use carpets, you 
know. Our floors are all ceramic tile, and you can clean it with water. Here you 
can't clean with water. In Brazil, when you clean the bathrooms, you throw water 
on everything. That's not the way you do it here. In other words, when Brazilians 
here go to clean house, they immediately see a big difference. 
To Helena, it would be important for Americans to understand that for Brazilians 

everything is different and they have to allow time to learn. 

So this is what happens to Brazilians. It's not that Brazilians come here to con 
anybody. It's that the first time you clean it really is difficult because you don't 
have any idea. . . . But after you learn how to do it, then it goes fast. . . The first 
time I worked at the hotel, you know, the first rooms I cleaned and everything 
went so slow. One bed, it took me forever to do one bed. Why? Because you 
have to fold the comers, you know. . . . Those corners ... So it took longer. So 
you see if the woman had sent me home because I was slow, today I wouldn't 
know how to do it quickly. You know, what I mean is, people have to give others 
a chance. 
Eduardo feels that there are a great many differences in customs that Brazilians 

need to adapt to when they live here. Even after living here for ten years, Eduardo still 

finds the differences to be difficult. 

I am getting used to things, but I am still not accustomed to some things. . . . The 
customs here are so different. You know. The things you do for fiin are different 



201 

from the way we do them in my country. You understand. We accept the ways of 

Americans, but they're not the same as our ways. 

This lack of familiarity of customs and culture even when the language is no 
longer a problem, still presents difficulties as these families strive to become 
independent. "Learning a little English makes it easier," said Eduardo, "but we still 
continue to be dependent. We still don't know how to resolve everything. You know, 
which department do you have to go to?" Although he is a competent adult, and one of 
the two participants in this study who were most fluent in English, he still feels 
dependent, and outside of the mainstream due to the differences in culture. 

Nilza sometimes makes mistakes because of these differences. Here in the United 
States, even on rural Martha's Vineyard, there are customs, rules, and laws that 
Brazilians wouldn't know about. She doesn't think that most Brazilians would 
intentionally break the law, yet sometimes they do because they don't understand. "For 
example, if you park your car in front of someone's driveway, they will immediately call 
the police. In Brazil, if someone stops their car in front of your driveway, they try to find 
you and ask that you please move your car." 

Individualism vs. Collectivism 

Some differences are more subtle. Even though Denise feels that the government 
here may seem more caring than that of Brazil, on a personal level Denise feels a lack of 
personal caring in her interactions with Americans. She put it this way, "I just haven't 
gotten used to the lack of human warmth, the love for one another, for your neighbors. 
It's very different." 



202 

Denise, when talking about adapting to the American cultvire, reminisces about 
the closeness to which she was accustomed in her native Brazil. "It's very different, in 
Brazil," she mused. 

You are at home. Your neighbor comes to your house, talks, has coffee with you. . 

. It's human warmth, friendship. You know what I mean - a lot of love. Here it is 

everyone for himself ... It's very individualist. I still have not gotten used to this. 

Brazilians change lifestyle in America 

The need to support the family leads to lifestyle changes that affect the Brazilian 
family values. These Brazilians made changes in their lives because their jobs, not the 
American culture, required it. Americans ought not make assumptions that everything 
they see these Brazilian immigrants do are examples of what life is like for all Brazilians, 
or that it is an example of Brazilian culture. Eduardo points out that Brazilians are 
willing to give up some things in their lifestyle when they come here. Working on 
Sundays, holidays, and nights are examples of how some change their family life when 
they come here. 

Americans don't like to work on holidays. Brazilians don't either . . . Americans 

like to have fun. Brazilians do too, but when we come to the United States, we 

accept things we wouldn't accept in our country. For example, in my country I 

didn't work on Sundays. 

For Nilza, too, her American lifestyle required her to spend much more time at 
work. "There are many more jobs here. . . I do not have much time for myself here." 
Although she came here and she stays here because she needs the work, still it means that 
she has had to give up something in her life. 



203 

Denise thinks this has an effect on the children. "Here on the island there is not a 
lot to do. The children spend a lot of time inside, at the babysitter's or at home. The 
parents work a lot in the summer. They don't have time, and the kids feel this." 

Denise worries that job responsibilities of parents take time away from the 
children. She talks about her own situation. 

Everyday I have to be at work from 10:00 in the morning until 4:00 in the 
afternoon . . . During that time I can't leave to take the children anywhere. You 
understand. When I leave work, I come home. There everything needs to be done, 
meals to be fixed, things to be taken care of 1 can't go out. Most families are the 
same. Brazilians, you know. They have a lot of work and the children are put 
aside, left behind. You know, and sometimes we have to go out, like before. We 
went off-island to go to Hyannis. We went to the mall. We took her to play a 
little, to have a little fun; but we can't do this all the time. 
Larissa, Eduardo's wife, believes that the American lifestyle encourages children 
to be more independent and less cormected to their families. Whereas Brazilians 
children may take a job to help their parents and the family as a whole, American 
children often take jobs so that they can be independent from their parents. She sees this 
as a problem. 

A child here, for example ... an adolescent, around 13 or 14 years of age goes to 
work. You know. He starts to make money and to be independent. . . . So, very 
early, American children start to separate themselves from their families. ... As 
they become less dependent on their families financially they become more 
detached from the family as well. 



204 

Change in occupational status 

One change for these BraziUans was a change in job status. Sabrina talked about 
the difference between their jobs in Brazil and here. Sabrina recalls that in Brazil she 
lived in a very large house, and the weather was warm all year long. However when her 
husband lost his job, he could not find work. In Brazil, her husband was a banker. Here 
he is a stonemason. She, herself, had never worked outside of the home before coming to 
the United States, but here she cleans houses and works in a restaurant. She explained 
that in America he can earn more as a stonemason than working in a bank in Brazil. 

You understand that, thank God, I was well off in Brazil. I never needed to work. 

I always stayed home. Before getting married I never needed to work, and after I 

got married. I didn't need to work . . . but here, we both have to work, both of us 

here, because the cost of living is very high. 

Here in the United States Nilza, too, has become an unskilled laborer. "I worked 
in the office of a newspaper, but the immigrant here has to take what he can get. Also, 
we do not know the language. We can't get any other work." Her husband also had to 
change his profession. In this country, "He is a housepainter ... It is totally different 
from what he did in Brazil. He worked in human resources in Brazil." 

Helena also had a professional career in Brazil as a teacher. Here she works as a 
maid and finally earns enough to provide for her family. This change in job status is, 
undoubtedly, painful for these families. They have, in effect, exchanged status and class 
for survival. 

Difference in child rearing 



205 

Denise talked about her 13 year old daughter who lives in Brazil. She explained 
why life in Brazil is better for her in terms of controlling her child's behavior. 

In Brazil there is control. Here there is no control. If you catch your child, let's 
say you catch your 1 3 year old daughter using drugs in your house, and you 
punish her, hit her and ground her, she picks up the phone, calls the police, and 
the police come get you. In other words, you cannot discipline your own child, 
because they think you are beating them. But in Brazil if you hit them and ground 
them, children don't call the police. 

Rhythm of life is different in Brazil 

Eduardo remembered his life in Brazil when he was much younger and single, 
and his lifestyle centered on fun and recreation. Now his life is very different. Eduardo 
recalled as "a single man, much younger, you understand my lifestyle was very different, 
you know. On the weekends I went to the beach, camping, having fiin, you know?" 

Denise thinks the casual, warm and relaxed way of life makes Brazil a good place 
to raise children. "There are lots of things to do," she says, "the climate is wonderful. 
There are lots of beaches, lots of places to go." 

Helena talked about her usual routine as staying home. She says that here she 
never goes out, "because here the rhythm of our life is different . . . Generally when we 
are at home, we stay at home. We don't go out, and I don't have a lot of enthusiasm for 
going out." 

Brazilian Children adjusting to America 

Just as there are many changes that the adult Brazilians in this study had to accept, 
so also did the children have to adapt. This was particularly true of the children who 



206 

were bom in Brazil and immigrated here while they were at an age that they could 
remember their life and family in Brazil. Both Janaina and Rose, the two focal children 
who were born in the United States, experienced few difficulties. On the other hand two 
of the families with older children did see problems with their children acclimatizing 
themselves to the culture here. They handled it in different ways. 

When Children adapt 

Sabrina talked about what it is like for her Brazilian children to adjust to life in 
this county. "Brazilians are very sentimental, you understand. We have strong feelings." 
She went on to talk about Soma's homesickness. At first she missed Brazil. Sabrina said 
that "Sonia didn't like to study here." 

As time went on she made new friends here and became accustomed to American 
ways and her friends became accustomed to her. "Her little friends are beginning to get 
used to her ways, and she is becoming integrated here." 

When asked if Soma's friends were Brazilian or American, Sabrina replied, "She 
only has one Brazilian friend, because here there are almost no Brazilians her age, you 
know. It's difficult, but all her friends are Americans." Sabrina made it clear that Sonia 
has managed to maintain her Brazilian culture while learning American ways. According 
to Sabrina "the way Sonia dresses and acts, she can pass for an American. . . Even her 
way of eating is American. They eat differently from us. . . . But she has not lost her 
Brazilian ways." 

When asked if Janaina' s friends were Brazilian or American, Eduardo said she 
has both, and he described how she easily moves back and forth from one set of friends to 



207 

another, from one language to another, and from one set of customs to another. "At 
home she has Brazihan friends" and in school she has American friends. 

When Children don't adapt 

Denise, whose 1 3 year old daughter now lives in Brazil with her grandmother, 
spoke about how difficult it is for some children when they come to the United States. 
"For someone who was raised in Brazil for some years, when they come here they are 
very shocked." She thinks that it is easier for adults to accept the changes because adults 
vmderstand the reason. They understand the conditions in Brazil, and they see that this is 
a better alternative. 

Denise talked about the problems her daughter had adjusting to the United States. 

She did not adapt well. As an adolescent, she was becoming difficult to control, and so 

finally Denise decided it would be better to send her back to Brazil. 

You understand. I wasn't able to control her anymore. She was telling a lot of 
lies. She would go behind my back. You know. She would trick me. My husband 
is not her father, and this was starting to affect my life with him. ... It was 
starting to interfere with my relationship with him ~ her rebelliousness, her 
disobedience. We sat down, he and I sat dowoi, talked, decided. "Let's send her to 
Brazil to her uncle's house because he is very loving, very good, although stricf . 
. . He is very firm in what he says, and he also has a 13 -year-old daughter, the 
same age. 
In Denise' s opinion this was the best thing for her daughter. Now she is happy 

and Denise does not worry about her. However, Denise does not believe there will be a 



208 

problem with Janaina, "She was bom here, you know, so she will grow up with the 
American culture ... so I think for her it will be easy." 

Fears in children in adapting to America 

Sabrina worried that the lifestyle of American children might make her son afraid. 
"Children don't play in the streets here. They don't go off to play alone. Here they 
arrange play dates. The children play inside the house or in the yard, and there is always 
an adult nearby." Sabrina believes that this interferes with their development and causes 
children to be afraid. 

"In Brazil they all play. . . They come home whenever they want. Everything is 
fine. The mothers, the fathers, the older children, nobody stays near them." She goes on 
to say that in this country, "They hover around the children too much. The children grow 
up afraid." 

Are they Brazilians or Americans? 

Eduardo does not worry that Janaina is acquiring American habits. He considers 
it to be his responsibility to teach her the Brazilian way of life. According to Eduardo, 
Janaina will "have the 'American ways' from the moment she loses contact vwth my 
country. If I lose contact with my country, she will not know my country, so we try to 
maintain contact with both sides, with the American as well as the Brazilian." 

He went on to say that in their home, they keep the Brazilian culture. When she is 
in the outside world, she acts like an American. Even though she is not yet 5 years old, 
she already knows how to distinguish which culture to follow. Eduardo says that she will 
grow up knowing both cultures and will someday be able to choose which one she wants 
to follow. 



209 

Children's sense of well-being depends on the parents 

On the other hand, Eduardo believes that children's well being depends on their 
parents' sense of well being. 

Anywhere in the world, the well-being of the children depends on the parents. If I 
am well off, let's suppose, financially, then she will be well off, regardless of 
where we live. If I am well off in Brazil, it will be good for her. If I am not well 
off, I won't be able to pay for school, good food, or anything. 

Going to school in a new culture 

Sabrina talked about how well her older daughter continues to do in school, so 
well that she is now helping other Brazilian children who arrive here not knowing how to 
speak English 

''You understand, she is helping, you know, like when another child needs a 
translator . . . This year many Brazilian children have entered her school, so now she is 
helping her friends, the Brazilians." 

Sabrina' s daughter, however, did have some difficulty adjusting in the begirming. 
This was because of the longer school day in the United States. According to Sabrina, in 
Brazil, children attend only one session of school. There is one session from seven to 
eleven in the morning. Another session is from noon until the afternoon. In some cases 
there is even a third session. In Brazil she went to school "from seven to eleven and here 
she studies from 8 to 2:30." This schedule was very difficult for her at first. 

It was also difficult for Rafaela, Tatiane's older sister because their resettlement 
came just at the time when she was learning to read and write. Unfortunately, when she 



210 

came to school here, because she did not know any EngUsh, it was Uke "starting all over 
again." 

A Hunger for Home -- Saudade for Brazil 

Saudade is a Portuguese word that means a longing for something that is distant 
or no longer available. The term, homesick, is the closest word we have in English for 
saudade. But the term saudade conjures up images of the longed for with love and 
yearning and fond memories as well, as sadness. The favorite videotape in Tatiane's 
family, "A Hunger for Home", perhaps best captures the idea and feeling behind the word 
saudade. 

For these Brazilian families, lack of ability to speak English, lack of 
understanding American culture, lack of a network of support in the United States, 
loneliness for loved ones and the familiar way of life in Brazil might all be translated into 
"Saudades" for Brazil, or a hunger for the homeland. 

Longing for family 

The sense of isolation is heightened by the homesickness and sadness in being 
separated from family. Helena was amazed at the ease with which Americans move 
away from home for the sake of their work, and almost in the same breath spoke about 
how terribly painful it is for her to be so far away from her father who is in ill health. She 
hears reports from her siblings and she is worried that as his only daughter she is too far 
away from him. She recounted a phone call to her father in which her brother answered 
and reported her father's ill health to her. He had been sick and had gone to the doctor, 
and the doctor said that his blood pressure is too high. 



211 

Helena made it clear that she does want to return to Brazil because of her family 
there. "I have to go because of my parents, our family, you know, because of the family. 
If it weren't for the family, I think we might think differently." 

Nilza also talked about how she missed her father and mother and explained that 
if it were not for the job situation, they would have stayed in Brazil. She feels divided, 
part of her in Brazil and part of her here. 

Although Eduardo also misses his family in Brazil very much, and they want to 
go back for a visit, it is not always so easy. In his case, his wife is pregnant and so they 
don't want to travel. "We would like to go in December, but my wife is pregnant, so we 
can't. We have to wait until we can all go together. . . We have to wait until the right 
time." 

Loneliness for Brazil 

Eduardo talked about his loneliness for his homeland and culture. "It's like I told 
you. Everyone has their own customs . . . affection for your family. When we come here 
we feel that we are practically alone. That is why we feel longing and sadness. Some 
people get depressed." 

To fall in the snow means you won't go back 

Nilza' s family found it difficult to adjust to the cold weather. Hers was the family 
who came to this country with only their summer clothing from Brazil, and they were 
unprepared when the cold weather came. For them, adapting to the climate was difficult. 

The cold weather is also a problem for many Brazilians who are used to the 
tropical climate of Brazil. Helena says that "there are Brazilians who come here and go 
crazy in the winter. They go crazy, and they want to go back." 



212 

It's not just the cold weather, but BraziUans don't know how to walk in the snow 
and ice. Helena told how she fell in the snow shortly after she arrived in the United 
States 

I came here on the 2nd of March . . . Then I fell in the snow, and Brazilians here 
have a saying. As soon as I had fallen, they said that now I wouldn't go back to 
Brazil anymore, because the saying goes that he who falls in the snow here 
doesn't go back. 

Eduardo also finds that it is very difficult to get used to the cold here in the United 
States. He remembered his tropical life in his hometown. "In Brazil there are colder 
areas, too, but I am from the state of Espirito Santo. . . It is summer practically all year 
long there." 

How to alleviate homesickness 

Family is very important to the Brazilians in this study. One way of dealing with 
the loss of extended family and the isolation it presents is to bring your extended family 
with you. According to Nilza when Brazilians come to this country, they bring their 
relatives with them. It may not happen at first, but eventually that is their goal. "I think 
there are very many Brazilians here. I think that those who come here bring their 
relatives later, you know. . . They bring a lot of relatives." 

Another way that Brazilians can alleviate their homesickness and feel connected 
to their homeland and families is through the Brazilian television station. Says Sabrina, 

Now we have something here that's very good that's become available to us 

Brazilians — a television channel from Brazil. . . . You know, all the Brazilians 



213 

have it at their houses. . . Brazil is over there, but there is a little piece of it here, 
and it's good. 

Head Start Support 

The parameters of the dissertation grant from the Administration of Children and 
Families required that the dissertation research be conducted in a Head Start setting with 
the collaboration of the Head Start program. Therefore all the children in this study were 
participants in the Head Start program sponsored by Martha's Vineyard Conmiunity 
Services. 

The Head Start program on Martha's Vineyard is a home-based Head Start 
program, meaning that a home visitor provides Head Start services through weekly home 
visits. Since it is not a center-based Head Start program, children in Head Start are not 
necessarily in a preschool program. The Head Start program includes monthly group 
field trips for children and parents, as well as parent meetings throughout the year. At the 
home visits the home visitor may also help families to access medical care and provides 
assistance for Brazilian families regarding health insurance for the children. This home- 
based type of Head Start program is a less cormnon than the center based Head Start 
programs. However, for my research, which required home visits to observe the home 
literacy environment, this proved to be an ideal Head Start setting in which to conduct my 
research. 

They also provide books to the families. According to Debbie Milne, director of 
the Head Start program, the Brazilian Head Start home visitor goes to Brazil at least once 
each year and brings back Portuguese language Brazilian books for the Head Start 
program. Eduardo said that in their home they have many books in both English and 



214 

Portuguese which they received from Head Start. This was in contradiction to Nilza, who 
said that the Head Start program did not have any Portuguese language books. I myself 
observed the Portuguese language children's books in Eduardo's house, as described in 
the Family Portraits section of this dissertation and as noted in my discussion of observed 
print items elsewhere in this dissertation. However if the supply of Brazilian Portuguese 
books is limited to what the Brazilian home visitor can carry back with her when she 
visits Brazil, there may not be enough books for all the Brazilian families. 

During the course of my research I purchased a number of Brazilian and 
Portuguese language children's books that were recommended to me by Helena, and I 
distributed these to all the families in the project. Portuguese language children's books 
of any type are difficult to come by in the United States; and, since the grant parameters 
did not permit funds to be expended outside of the United States I could not purchase 
books from Brazil. After conducting a search for Portuguese language books I found a 
small selection of about 100 Portuguese language children's books with the help of the 
bookstores Latin American consultant. I took this list to Helena because she had 
previously expressed interest in finding children's books, and I decided that with her 
teaching background she would be able to wisely recommend some appropriate 
Portuguese language books for children. The books were primarily story books and 
included some that were stories firom Brazilian folklore, some Brazilian children's 
stories, and some Portuguese language translations of classic children books. I 
purchased multiple copies of the books recommended by Helena when they were 
available. In some cases I had only one copy of a book, in other cases only 2 or 3 copies. 
In some cases I was able to purchase 5 copies. Since I could not distribute each book 



215 

evenly among the families, I laid out all the books before the parents, and I allowed them 
to choose any eight books that they wanted. They were all very happy to receive these 
books. 

Head Start Home visits 

I was present during home visits in all five homes when a home visitor brought 
materials and supplies so that parents and children together could participate in activities. 
There were two Head Start home visitors who visited the families in this study. One was 
Maria, a Brazilian who visited the families who could not speak English. These were 
Tatiane's, Maria's, and Augusto's family. The other visitor was Mary, an American who 
could not speak Portuguese. She visited the families in which the children and at least 
one parent could speak English. These two families were Janaina's and Rosa's. 

During one of my home visits, Mary explained and assisted Eduardo with 
applications for health insurance. I was present when Denise and Mary discussed 
discipline issues. Mary had given Denise a parenting book during a previous visit, 
because Denise had asked for help with discipline. Larissa, Janaina's mother had also 
showed me many children's books that Mary had given them. Larissa was very proud of 
the many books they kept for Janaina. They normally kept the books hidden behind the 
doors of a cabinet in the living room. However, when the doors opened the books spilled 
out in an array of literacy opportunities. 1 saw many books that would be typical in the 
home of many preschool American children. There were alphabet books, picture books. 
Golden books, and Disney storybooks. Mary brought materials for Janaina to draw, and 
she reminded Eduardo about parent-teacher conferences at the preschool. 



216 

Maria, the Brazilian home visitor, brought a recipe for home-made play-doh to 
Nilza's home; and Maria, Nilza and little Maria made play-doh together. At Maria's 
house, Nilza, Maria, and the home visitor Maria were very involved together in this 
activity. Nilza, as well as the home visitor, asked Maria questions about how the 
ingredients felt, what did she think was going to happen, why did she think so? All the 
usual questions that a preschool teacher or mother of any preschooler might ask of their 
child as they scaffold language and encourage them to observe, predict, and make 
inferences about what they are doing. 

Mary brought materials for bead-stringing and counting to Denise's house. Then 
she read a story to Rosa after the activity. When Mary visited Rosa's house, Denise 
usually sat and watched while Mary guided the activity. She became involved in talking 
about the bead-stringing at Mary's encouragement. Usually, though, Denise seemed to 
take Mary's visit as an opportunity to sit and rest. Denise led a very busy life that 
included work in the family store, shopping for inventory for the store, caring for their 
two story home, and driving her high school age stepson, when necessary. 

In each of the Head Start home visits at which I was present, the Head Start home 
visitor brought an activity to do with the Head Start child. She encouraged the parent to 
guide the activity. However, if the parent chose not to do this, then the Head Start home 
visitor guided the activity, and in doing so, modeled this for the parent. During the 
activities the Head Start home visitor encouraged parent-child interaction about the 
activity. I also noted the Head Start home visitor would frequently point out to the parent 
how an activity was encouraging the development of the child. 



217 

The Head Start home visitor also invited the parent to ask questions or to discuss 
concerns or problems. In my observations I saw that the home visitors encouraged 
parents, modeled for parents, supported parents, and offered assistance in various areas in 
which the families needed services. 

Head Start and preschool 

One of Head Start's services is to help families find a preschool slot, possibly with 
some scholarship aid, for the Head Start families. Maria, as a Brazilian, knows many 
Brazilian families living on Martha's Vineyard. Because of these connections she is able 
to quickly locate newly arrived Brazilian families with young children and to connect 
them with services provided by Head Start. 

Nilza was especially grateful for the fact that Maria contacted them soon after 
they arrived on Martha's Vineyard. Nilza explained that Maria knew one of their relatives 
and had taken the initiative in contacting them. "It was she who looked for me. 1 didn't 
know enough to look for her." 

Maria offered to enroll Nilza' s daughter into the Head Start program. Nilza also 
said that the Head Start Home Visitor, Maria, had helped find a preschool and fimding to 
pay for her daughter, Maria, to attend. "She's at a private school. . . Maria found a 
program to pay for her." 

Helena talked about the day that the Head Start home visitor encouraged the focal 
child to draw some hearts for the people in the family that she loves. "Maria drew, told 
her to draw some hearts; and she drew my heart, her father's, hers, her sister's, and aunt 
nana's." So the Head Start home visitor encouraged her to use pen and paper to represent 



218 

her ideas, while at the same time recognizing and affirming her connection with family 
members in Brazil. 

Helena also appreciated the help she received from Head Start. She described 
how the Head Start home visitor found a preschool for Tatiane. The home visitor 
arranged a visit with her in June so that she could get all the necessary information to 
register Tatiane for preschool. Together they completed all the paperwork and Maria 
submitted it to the waiting list. After that she "told me that I just had to wait, that she had 
put Tatiane on a list." Then one day, "She called me and said they had an opening." 

Head Start and Basic Needs 

Nilza went on to express her gratitude to Maria for all that she does. "Goodness 
she has been wonderfiil to us. . . She opens doors to help us." This Head Start visitor 
saw to it that Nilza received information regarding medical and dental services. Nilza 
also extolled the group activities and parent education offered by the Head Start program. 
"I think it is very important. There are many meetings. You know, about child 
development. There are many field trips." 

Sabrina, too, expressed her gratitude to Head Start for helping her. "Head Start 
has helped me a lot," she said. In addition to home visits for Augusto, Head Start assisted 
her in arranging private tutoring with a volunteer who comes to her home twice each 
week to teach her English. 

Nilza also talked about how Maria, the Head Start home visitor, helped her family 
when they couldn't buy food. She explained that when they first arrived all their money 
went to pay for their house, and there was nothing left. So Maria connected them to a 
church that gave them food. 



219 

Instead of waiting for the family to ask for help, the home visitor recognized the 
likelihood of a need and offered assistance to the family. Nilza explained that when she 
lost her job at the hotel at the end of the tourist season, "Maria said, 'You are not working 
any more. Do you to want a letter to get food at the church?'" 

The fact that the Head Start home visitors offered assistance before the families 
asked for help is important, because these families, based on their own personal 
experience and their culture, would not have thought that help would be available. For 
them, they were accustomed to helping and receiving help from relatives and close 
friends, but not from schools, the government, or social service agencies. Nilza remarked 
on how good it is to live in the United States where "There is so much help." 

The challenge of limited English proficiency 

The inability to speak English was a major problem for three participants in my 
study, and English even presented some difficulties for one of the parents who appeared 
to be fluent when speaking. This limited English proficiency places adults in the role of 
dependent children who are unable even to help their own children with their schoolwork 
in their normal role as parent. 

Dependence and limited English proficiency 

Inability to speak English keeps people dependent on others for help for the most 

basic things in life. Nilza talked about her problems in not knowing how to speak 

English. 

At the moment it is this. I need to go to the post office to get on the waiting list to 
see if I can obtain a post office box. I have to wait for somebody that speaks 
English to go with me, to find out how to do it. . . I need to go on the ferry to go 



220 

to Boston to register our vehicle in Boston because those who hve off island pay 
less.[Nilza is mistaken about this. She might believe that she pays less if she 
registers her vehicle in Boston, but the fee is the same throughout the state.] I 
always need someone to help me, and it is terrible to have to always be dependent 
on other people to do get my work done. 
When Helena and her husband made their decision for him to come to the United 

States for the sake of the family, they did not realize how difficult it would be. She 

explained that everything becomes a problem when you don't speak the language. "It's 

difficult. . . You arrive here. You don't know how to speak the language . . . You don't 

know how to communicate with people. It's difficult." 

Sabrina described how painful it is to always need someone to help because she 

doesn't know how to speak English. 

We suffer a lot in the beginning for not knowing how to speak English. It's very 

sad. We have to call someone to translate everj^hing. You know. Sometimes 

people can't go with you. You know. It's very sad. You go to the supermarket or 

shopping, and you don't know what they are saying to you. You know. It's very 

difficult. 

Her experience is that many Americans don't want to be bothered with people 

who need help in order to communicate. "It's because of the lack of English, you know. 

Many people just [don't want to help]." 

Even Eduardo, who appears to speak English fluently, still has problems related to 

the language. He says, "For example, I don't understand things at the hospital very well. 

I don't know the scientific names." 



221 

School problems related to parents limited English proficiency 
As a former school teacher, Helena had the ability to teach her children reading, 
writing, and math, and help them at home. But Helena was unable to help her older child 
who was having problems at school. Helena told me that if she could understand English 
she could help her daughter, but she didn't even have a dictionary. "She was bringing 
homework to do at home with me, but . . . I don't have a dictionary." The irony is that 
Helena would be perfectly capable of helping her daughter with her schoolwork, but it is 
her limited English proficiency that makes it impossible for her to do so. 

Learning English 

For several Brazilians in this study, their limited English proficiency was the one 
thing that prevented them from being able to integrate and enjoy their life here in the 
United States. It is a major barrier, and it is one that takes persistence and hard work to 
overcome. Although Sabrina admits that she misses Brazil and the Brazilian customs, 
she likes living in the United States. The only thing lacking is that she can't speak 
English. "I see it this way," she said, "as soon as I am able to speak English ... my life 
will be complete." 

Motivation to Learn English 

The three participants who did not speak English shared the common goal of 
learning English, and their struggles may also instill in them compassion for others. 
Helena explains her motivation to learn English so that she can get a better job, so that 
she will not feel helpless and dependent upon other people to translate for her, and so that 
she can also help other Brazilians. She fantasized what it would be like to be able to 
speak English. "Think about it, I could go anywhere. There are many places that need 



222 

people to work." To be able to have her choice of jobs someday is an incentive for 
Helena to learn to speak English. 

After she learns to speak English she wants to help others. She said, "When 
Brazilians come here, they are helpless, like I was, like my husband was. I want to be 
able to help them." Helena granted that being able to help people like this would also 
make her feel good. 

Sabrina, too, wants to learn English as quickly as possible, so that she can work in 
a school and perhaps help other Brazilians who don't speak English. "I want to see if I 
can learn English faster because 1 want to be able to help. I want to help other 
Brazilians." 

Learning English is difficult 

Nilza talked about how difficult it is to learn English, even though she considers 
herself to be an intelligent person. "I never had difficulty learning anything in my life, 
you know. I always caught on to things quickly, but English. I think it is very difficult." 
She remarked particularly on the difficulty of learning English verbs. 

Nilza spoke about the English classes that she and her husband were taking at the 
local adult education program at the high school. "We are learning English at the high 
school, free. We pay nothing. . . They have classes once a week." She says progress is 
slow, but each day that they go they learn a bit more. As they begin to have more contact 
with Americans, it is also easier for them to learn English because they can put into 
practice what they learn in their classes. 



223 

Helena's dream was to "learn to speak English and to see my daughters speaking 
English." She was doing her best to learn English on her own without formal classes and 
was learning English at work, with the help of her employer. 

She described how she pushes herself to speak English whenever possible, rather 
than relying on others to translate for her. She told me about the pep talk she gave herself 
the first time she had to speak English. 

I needed a taxi, because I couldn't drive. I said to myself, "My God, I am going 

to ask for a taxi by telephone ... so I went and thought out how I would say it. 

I'm going to say it like this .... I'll say the name of the street. I'll say where it is, 

and you know. It's going to work." So I called, and they understood me, and 

they came to pick me up. 

Nilza said the more she speaks to Americans, the more her English improves, but 
she also shared her feelings of shame in speaking English. "We are afraid that we will not 
speak correctly, and so we avoid speaking English except when it is absolutely 
necessary." However she appreciates the fact that many Americans are patient with them 
and try to help. She explained, "If we make a mistake, they help us. They ask us 
questions so that they can understand what we are trying to say. They use gestures. . . 
They do not criticize. . . They help us very much." 

Children learning English 

Helena thinks that it's easier for children to learn English. Tatiane's teacher 
reported to her that she was learning English very quickly. She told Helena that Tatiane is 
able to carry on a conversation with other children in the school. 



224 

Eduardo spoke about Janaina learning both English and Portuguese. "Here at 
home, with her, everything is in Portuguese. She learns English at school. She gets it 
from television. . . I don't have to worry about English." 

Eduardo says that Janaina easily switches back and forth from English to 
Portuguese depending on whom she is talking to, whether it is her American friends or 
her Brazilian cousins. "If she has an American friend she speaks 'American' in 
English." To her Brazilian friends and relatives, she speaks Portuguese. 

Sabrina also thinks that children can learn English easier. She sees that her school 
age daughter, Sonia, learned English quickly. In fact, she speaks English so well that 
Sabrina proudly relates that she is helping other Brazilian students. "You know, she goes 
and translates for them . . .Children learn English fast." 

Education and literacy 

All of the parents in this study were very interested in their children's learning. 
They may have had differing expectations based on their experience and their knowledge 
of the American school system, but they all considered their children bright and capable 
and they wanted to do everything they could to encourage their development. 

Helena's younger child, Tatiane, was not immediately able to enter preschool, as 
she was on a waiting list, but she was already eager to go to school. Helena explained 
that she wanted to be in school because her older sister was in school, and "She would 
give me a hard time. 'Mom, what about me? Can't I study. Mom? I want to study 
Mom.'" 



225 

It was Helena's wish that her children would keep their desire to learn. "I only 
hope that their interest is something that will continue, you know? There are children 
who, when they reach a certain age, don't want to study at all." 

Preschool 

Helena had not had much experience with preschool in Brazil. She said that there 
was a preschool in the town in which she lived, but it had been a recent addition to the 
town. She said that it was for three and four year olds. "It's a new thing, and it's a 
private school, too." Based on what she knew, she did not see it as being very different 
from the preschool she has seen here on Martha's Vineyard. 

Nilza talked about the school experience for preschoolers in Brazil. Her daughter, 
Maria, had been in a private preschool in Brazil. From her description, young children in 
Brazil focus on recognizing and copying the letters of the alphabet. Nilza viewed a 
preschool environment as a place to develop academic skills. Because the teachers in her 
child's American preschool did not teach in this way, it was her judgment that the school 
was inferior and her child was not being academically challenged. 

Nilza described the following scenario as being a typical Brazilian preschool. 
"The children sat with a notebook in a corridor of the school. I assume they were drawing 
a "abelha" [bee], and v^ote the letter "a" to teach them to say the "a" of "abelha" [bee]. 
These were very little ones." 

Nilza didn't say exactly how old these children were. However, Nilza concluded 
that, because the preschool her daughter attended in the United States was different, this 
meant that in the United States "they are not very concerned about literacy." She went 
on to say that in Brazil, the teachers tell stories to the children. When asked if the 



226 

teachers here don't also read stories to the children, Nilza replied, "The teacher tells 
stories, but she tells them in English; and she does not understand." 

Because of this Nilza wants to take Maria back to Brazil. Nilza believes that her 
daughter, who is very intelligent for her age, will be thwarted in her academic 
development by what she considers to be the faulty American school system. 

Public school 

Helena and Sabrina both had older children who were enrolled in the local public 
school. Helena expressed concern for Rafaela who was having some problems with 
school related to her limited English proficiency. However, she did not have any 
complaints about the school itself 

Sabrina said that she thought that the local public schools were very good. "I 
think that all the schools here on Martha's Vineyard are great, you understand; and they 
help the children a lot." She praised the excellent teachers and appreciates the fact that 
they encourage all Brazilian students "to enter into the entire milieu" of the school. 
"Sonia even participates in theater." She did express concern that Sonia was studying 
content that she had already completed two years earlier in Brazil, but she also 
acknowledged that the school had placed Sonia in a lower grade because she didn't know 
how to speak English. 

While he did not have direct experience with the public school, it was Eduardo's 
belief that the American public schools were better than the Brazilian public schools. 
However, Nilza had developed a very negative idea about the local public school based 
on stories she had heard from other Brazilians. "I knew one lady who told me that her 
son is in high school. The only subjects that he studies are English, history and 



227 

mathematics." She found this shocking, saying that in Brazil he would be studying 
"Eight subjects. They would have chemistry, biology, and physics." And she went on to 
tell me that they do not teach these things in the United States. I replied that students in 
high school do, indeed, study those subjects. However, she insisted that the American 
school system is backward and that the son of this Brazilian woman she knows only 
studies those three subjects in high school. This worries Nilza very much because she is 
afraid her daughter will not develop properly in the United States. 

Parents formal instruction at home 

Eduardo explained that at home he and his wife try to continue what their 
daughter is doing in preschool. "Let's suppose that she is learning to count, so we have 
to try to continue teaching her the numbers." He explained that he and his wife had given 
Janaina a spiral-bound book for drawing and practicing the alphabet. He told me that he 
and his wife had been working with their daughter on this for some time at home. It was 
not something that was introduced to her for the first time by Head Start or her preschool. 
"When she started school, she already knew how to write. She learned when she was less 
than three years old, you know." 

Nilza described how her husband also teaches their daughter, similar to what 
Eduardo does. She said that he is teaching her to write in cursive. When I asked if it is 
typical for parents to teach their children in Brazil, Nilza responded that it is not. Usually 
teaching is considered to be the job of the school. However when she and her husband 
saw that the preschool was not teaching cursive writing, they became worried and 
decided to teach her themselves. 



228 

Lack of Books in the home 

Helena explained that in their home they do not have any Brazilian children's 
books. They do have a few English books that were given to them by her employer, but 
she can't read them. The books in their home belong to the older child and they are her 
schoolbooks, which are written in English. Her older daughter was experiencing 
difficulties, and she wished they had at least one Portuguese book in their home to read. 
Helena believes that if she had some material in Portuguese, she muses, it could make life 
easier for them. In the case of Helena's older daughter, she was just beginning to learn to 
read and write in Portuguese when they left Brazil. 

Having a Portuguese book at home might help her daughter to develop her 
reading and writing in Portuguese "because that way she would learn English in school, 
because she spends enough time at school, from 8:00 until 3:30 now, and she would learn 
Portuguese at home." 

Nilza was unhappy about the fact that they had no Portuguese children's books in 
their house. She said that they read many stories to Maria when they were at home in 
Brazil, but here they do not have any books. In Eduardo's house they have books, many 
books, in Portuguese as well as in English. The books came to them from the Head Start 
home visitor. 

Helena discussed the fact that there are many classic children stories that are well 
knovm in Brazil in Portuguese as well as in English in America, and the children are able 
to read and understand these stories more easily. She gave as an example, "Little Red 
Riding Hood". "By the drawings, she recognizes it's the story of 'Little Red Riding 



229 

Hood'." She suggested that if they had books, such as these, at home, it would help her 
child when she studies those same stories in English in school. 

Summary 

Based on the interviews a picture of these Brazilian families has emerged which is 
consistent with works by other Brazilianists (Margolis, 1993; Martes, 2000; Sales, 1999) 
and Brazilian anthropologists (Ribeiro, 2000; DaMatta, 1999). These five Brazilian 
families left Brazil, where they lived as middle class Brazilians, educated to work in 
professional occupations, because they could not support their families in an acceptable 
way in Brazil. The combination of unemployment, fiscal crisis, low wages, and 
government corruption, along with the stories of the good life in America, drew these 
Brazilian families here. 

Once here, they struggled with the sense of isolation brought on by the loss of 
their support network of extended family and neighbors, coupled with their new state of 
dependency brought on by their inability to speak English. They discovered that other 
Brazilians were often more interested in seeking their own success and viewed their 
presence as competition. They faced many other challenges, ranging from legal issues, 
costs of relocation, concerns for their children's education and well-being, and worries 
about families back home. The Brazilian churches sometimes filled this isolation by 
providing a network of caring support, much like the caring support they would have 
experienced from their extended families. 

The Head Start program proved to be an invaluable aid in helping these families 
to navigate the unfamiliar waters of the health care, educational, social security, and other 
social service systems in America. In our country the system of social service agencies. 



230 

in effect, is a systemized and government-sponsored attempt to provide help and aid that 
might have naturally been offered by family in Brazil. But for these immigrants, it was 
critical that someone be there to introduce them to these services and explain to them 
how to access these services, as well as to translate the language for them. Head Start 
provided a valuable cultural and linguistic bridge to assist these families in accessing 
these services. 



231 

Chapter VII: In-Home Observations 

Introduction 

In addition to parent interviews to learn about the challenges and barriers that the 
families in this study experienced as a result of their immigration to the United States, in- 
home observations were conducted in each of the families over a six month period. The 
purpose of these observations was to collect data regarding the amounts and types of 
literacy events in which the focal child participated or which s/he observed. With the 
social and cultural context of these families as revealed through their interviews, the 
observations of these literacy events along with the amount and types of print, I have 
attempted to construct a picture of the literacy experiences of these children as situated in 
their socio-cultural context. In this section I will describe the results of those in-home 
observations. 

Results for the in-home observations were derived from analysis of the data 
entered in Excel spreadsheets, as described in Chapter 3. This data was analyzed for 
types of literacy events, types of domains, participant structure and language. My intent 
was to determine frequencies, means, and standard deviations for literacy events 
observed, and to examine this data for differences and similarities observed in these 
families. I, therefore, calculated sums, means, and standard deviation for events and 
domains, as previously coded. According to Sirkin (1999), measures of dispersion, or 
variability, i.e. standard deviation, enable us to see the clustering of scores among 
participants. These results, therefore, present the average or typical score that would be 
expected among the participants. In the following sections, I will describe the results of 
the analysis of this data. 



232 



Observed Print Items 

During the in-home observations, items of print were noted and coded for domain, 
as described in the Methods Chapter. The types of observed print items found in these 
homes included a variety of environmental items that were observed, but were not 
necessarily observed being used. These print items included telephone books, 
appointment books, newspapers, birthday cards, clocks, calendars, children or adult 
books in view on shelves, an atlas, magazines, items of print on clothing, print on 
television such as credits or in advertising, print in artwork hanging on the walls, business 
cards, and so forth. A total of 106 such print items were observed in the homes of the 
five children in this study. 

In reviewing the data, one thing was certain. The amount and nature of literacy 
materials observed in these homes varied considerably from family to family. Of a total 
of 106 print items observed in these homes, Janaina's family had the greatest number of 
print items within view (64) and Augusto's family had the least (3). Maria's and 
Tatiane's homes had an almost equal number of print items observable, 1 1 and 10 
respectively, while Rosa's family had 18. Since the average number of observed print 
items seen in the homes was 21 .2, Rosa's was the only home that had close to the average 
number of print items observable. Table 1 illustrates total numbers of print items 
observed among families. Figure 1 is a graphic representation of this same data. 



233 



Table 1 



Observed Print Items 





Observed Print 
Items 


Augusto 


3.00 


Janaina 


64.00 


Maria 


11.00 


Tatiane 


10.00 


Rosa 


18.00 


Total: Mean 


21.2000 


Sum 


106.00 


Standard 
Deviation 


24.5092 



Figure 1 
Observed Print Items by family 




There are two things two keep in mind that influenced these items that could be 
observed. One is that in Janaina' s home, where there were many more items of 
environmental print observable, one obvious reason is that this family had a very small 
apartment with little space to store food packages or other items. Therefore, many 
packages of food were stored on the kitchen counter in plain view of everyone. Second, 
again because of the single open space that constituted a living room/child's bedroom and 
kitchen/dining area, all cooking and eating that took place involved opening and closing 
refirigerator and cabinet doors to reveal a variety of food packages labeled with print. 
This was again in full view of anyone in the home. 

One more consideration of importance is that Janaina had far more children's 
books than any other children in this study. I counted 25 children's books in her home. 
However, these were kept in a cabinet under the television set; and I only saw this 
collection when Janaina opened the cabinet to retrieve a book because she wanted an 



234 

adult to read to her. I did not see any children's books in Maria's, Augusto's, or 
Tatiane's home, and I only saw three children's books in Rosa's home. 

There are two obvious reasons for this lack of children's books in these homes. 
The first reason is that in the three homes where there were no children's books at all, 
those families could not speak or read in English. Both Tatiane's and Maria's mother, 
bemoaned the fact that they could not read to their children because they could not read 
in English. Therefore English books would have been unusable for these families. They 
both said that in Brazil they did read to their children and so, presumably, they had books 
in their homes in Brazil. Portuguese language books are extremely difficult to come by 
in the United States, and they are costly as well, so it is no surprise that they did not have 
many books in either language. 

The second obvious reason for the lack of children's books, even among those 
who could speak English, is that books cost money and for these families, there was little 
expendable income to be spent on books. The two focal children who had parents who 
could speak English very well, Janaina and Rosa, both had children's books in English. 
However, I only saw three in Rosa's home, whereas there were three times as many to be 
seen in Janaina' s home. Janaina and Rosa both could speak English fluently and each 
had at least one parent who could and so they were able to use the English books that, 
according to Eduardo, came from Head Start. However, I do not know if Rosa had more 
children's books that were hidden fi-om view somewhere in their home. 

Prior to the end of this project, I distributed a collection of children's books in 
Portuguese to these families. This was at an event which we had plarmed as a group to 
celebrate the end of the project and to thank the families for their participation. I brought 



235 

with me some 30 books that I had purchased, most of them on the recommendation of 
Helena, Tatiane's mother, the former school teacher. I laid all of the books out on a table 
for the parents, and asked each to choose eight books for their child. It was a precious 
moment, as they all gathered silently around the table, studying the selection, and then 
choosing their books, one by one. My impression, in observing this moment, was that 
this was an occasion they considered both solemn and joyful. It appeared that this was a 
very special event, indeed, and it left no doubt in my mind that they placed a great value 
on children's books and would certainly have purchased more of their own if it had been 
possible. 

The observed print items were coded for social domain. Table 2 shows the 
domains of all print items observed in the homes. However, because there is no way of 
knowing whether or not there were other print items not in view, it would seem prudent 
to use caution in drawing conclusions based only on the number and types of print in 
open view. The stacked bar graph in Figure 2 illustrates the fact that every child in this 
study was exposed to print in their home in varying ways and amounts. 





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237 



Literacy Events 

To review, literacy events were identified from field notes and were coded 
according to the type of activity. The categories were: reading, writing, talking, 
choosing, coloring, drawing, singing, looking at, playing with, on the phone, copying, 
and showing. Observations of in-home literacy events by previous researchers (Teale, 
1986; Purcell-Gates, 1996) did not count coloring, singing, copying, and showing as 
literacy events. " 

I added these categories for reasons previously discussed. However, when 
comparing these research results with theirs, it is important to be aware that I broadened 
the definition of literacy events. Therefore I observed considerably more instances of 
literacy events per focal child, per hour than either of these two researchers. 

The actual number of hours observed varied from home to home. Time spent 
interviewing parents, getting settled on arrival, saying good-by and arranging fiiture 
appointments, and the first two or three visits (the getting-acquainted period described 
previously) were not included as observation hours. Therefore, the actual number of 
hours observing literacy events was less than the number of hours spent by the researcher 
in these homes. Thus the number of hours observing literacy events was 7.5 for Augusto, 
6.25 for Janaina, 8.75 for Maria, 8.75 for Tatiane, and 6.25 for Rosa, for a total of 37.5 
hours. 



" Like my participants, the participants of both Teale and Purcell-Gates were described as low-income 
families. However, in both of their studies the focal children and their parents spoke English as their first 
language. 



238 

Table 3'- summarizes by focal child the average frequency of occurrences of 
literacy events per hour. These figures indicate the total amount of literacy to which each 
child was exposed either by direct participation or by observation of another person. The 
range in frequency for total events per hour was from a low of 4.0 per hour to a high of 
8.8, with an average of 6.74 per hour. 



'" All references in this paper to case numbers for participants are as follows: 1= Augusto, 2=Janaina, 
3=Maria, 4=Tatiane, 5=Rosa. 



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240 

In analyzing the results of the coding, it became evident that the literacy 
event, talking about activities related to literacy, was by far the most common literacy 
event observed in all the families. Out of a total of 243 observed literacy events, 93 
were of the type, talking. This accounts for 38% of all literacy events observed. 
The average number of occurrences of this event was 18.6. 

The second most frequently observed activity, playing with, was observed 32 
times, only 13% of the total, with an average number of occurrences at 6.4. Thus, it 
can be observed that the frequencies of the twelve literacy events observed varied 
from household to household. However, out of all the possible types of literacy 
events, the most frequent for every child in the study was talking about some aspect 
of literacy. 

These quantifications of the literacy environment of the home indicate that 
every child in this sample was involved with literacy-related activities during the 
course of everyday home experiences. Even taking into consideration that of the 243 



241 

contrast Purcell-Gates (1996), in her study of 20 low SES families, observed a low of 
. 1 7 per hour to a high of 5.07 per hour. See Table 4 below. 

Table 4 Range of frequency of Literacy events per hour 





Low 


High 


Teale 


.34 


4.06 


Purcell-Gates 


.17 


5.07 


Switzer 


4.00 


8.32 



Domains of Literacy Events 

In addition to literacy event, one of nine domains as listed in Chapter 3 was 
also identified. Both Teale (1986) and Purcell-Gates (1996) found that literacy events 
observed could be categorized into ten social domains. This is because literacy 
events are not isolated events that are disconnected from the reality of everyday 
living. They are, in fact, an integral part of the social activities of which these and 
other families aire routinely involved. In other words, the family members engaged in 
the literacy events observed were usually seeking an end other than literacy itself. 
Examples such as Maria playing with her Barbie and giving Barbie a book to read, 
attempting to read the directions for a Barney board game, watching a Brazilian 
educational television program teaching the alphabet, or the focal child watching 
television as Christmas songs are sung and the words appear on the screen with a 
bouncing ball so that children can sing along illustrate the point that these are all 
examples of literacy-related activities, but they are carried out in the social domain of 
entertairmient. In contrast, events such as an older sibling doing homework, or a 
parent studying English are engaged in for the purpose of literacy and/or learning. 



242 



The social domains of these literacy events are important not only to provide a 
context for understanding the observed literacy events, but because there is a direct 
link between cognition and social experiences of a learner (Vygotsky, [1934] 1986). 
In fact, the written word, in and of itself, is meaningless unless it represents the social 
act of communication. Teale concludes that "the ways in which literacy enters into 
the social life of a family will affect how it is incorporated into the mental life of the 
members of the family" (1986, p. 184). 

In this research study, I used the nine social domains for analyzing literacy 
events that were constructed by Teale (1986) and utilized by Purcell-Gates (1996). 
Table 5 summarizes the frequency and amount of time (and relative percentage for 
each) spent in literacy in each domain for the 5 focal children per hour. The domains 
most frequently mediated by literacy for the five children were entertainment and 
literacy for the sake of teaching/learning literacy. 



Table 5 Average 


requency of literacy for all focal children b; 


y social 


domain 




Domain 


Augu 


Janai 


Maria 


Tatia 


Rosa 


Sum 


M 


SD 


Av/hr/ 
37.5 


% 


Daily 
Living 


.00 


5.00 


8.00 


1.00 


9.00 


23 


4.6 


4.037 


0.613 


9.46 


Entertain- 
ment 


22 


22 


24 


13 


31 


112 


22.4 


6.426 


2.986 


46.09 


School- 
Related 


.00 


5.00 


.00 


6.00 


.00 


11 


2.2 


3.033 


.2933 


4.52 


Work 


.00 


.00 


.00 


.00 


1.00 


1 


.2 


.447 


.026 


.41 


Religion 


.00 


.00 


.00 


1.00 


2.00 


3 


.6 


.894 


0.08 


1.23 


Interper- 
sonal 
Communi 
cation 


.00 


3.00 


3.00 


6.00 


2.00 


14 


2.8 


2.167 


.3733 


5.76 


Informa- 
tion 
Networks 


1.00 


.00 


.00 


.00 


.00 


1 


.2 


.447 


.026 


.41 


Storybook 
Reading 


4.00 


3.00 


.00 


.00 


.00 


7 


1.4 


1.949 


0.186 


2.88 


Teaching/ 

Learning 

Literacy 


28.00 


22.00 


11.00 


8.00 


7.00 


76 


15.2 


9.313 


2.026 


31.2 



243 

Teale (1986) distinguishes three categories for the social domain 
entertainment: source, instrumental, and incidental. Instances in which literacy, 
itself, was the source of entertainment would be, for example, reading a novel or 
doing a crossword puzzle. Literacy that was used as an instrument to facilitate 
entertainment, such as reading the TV guide to decide what entertainment program to 
watch, or reading or attempting to read the rules for the Barney game, was considered 
instrumental. Literacy, which was observed in an event, only in an incidental way to 
the act of entertainment, such as the road signs that Augusto set up with his matchbox 
car set, is an example of literacy that is incidental to, or embedded within the activity 
of the domain of entertainment. 

In this study of 5 Brazilian immigrant families on Martha's Vineyard, there 
were no observed incidents of literacy events in the social domain entertainment in 
which the occurrence of literacy was a source of the entertainment. In almost every 
event in the social domain of entertainment, the literacy event was incidental to the 
entertainment. Therefore in my analysis I did not distinguish between these three 
categories of entertainment. 

In Teale's San Diego study, comparatively few instances of literacy were 
observed in the domains: entertainment-incidental (1%), work (2.3%), and 
interpersonal communication (3.5%). Furthermore, there was a dearth of incidents of 
storybook reading observed (0.9%) (Teale, 1986). 

However, when the three subcategories of entertainment were merged 
(incidental (1%), instrumental (5.6%) and source (17.2%), the total of all literacy 
events in the social domain entertainment became more notable at 23.8%. 



244 

Entertainment was exceeded only by daily living routines (25.5%) in the frequency of 
literacy events observed. This was followed by Literacy for the sake of 
teaching/learning literacy (19.8%) and school-related (11. 2%). 

Purcell-Gates, using the same social domains as Teale, found few differences 
in her results. Purcell-Gates did not distinguish the subcategories of entertainment; 
and noted 25.8% of all literacy events in the social domain of entertainment. Daily 
living routines were observed 32.3% of the time. This was followed by school- 
related at 12.3%, interpersonal communication at 10.5%), and teaching/learning 
literacy (9.1%). Storybook reading was observed to occur 5.8% of the time. 

These findings are in marked contrast to the Martha's Vineyard Brazilian 
study. The domain in which the greatest number of literacy activities occurred was 
entertainment, which represented 46.09% of all literacy events observed in these 
homes. The average number of events observed in this domain per family was 22.4, 
with an average of 2.986 occurrences per hour. 

To help clarify the differences and similarities in the three studies. Table 6 
provides a comparison of literacy events observed by social domain in the studies of 
Purcell-Gates, Teale, and the current study. Figure 3 provides a graphic 
representation in the form of a stacked bar graph to illustrate the distribution by 
percentage of literacy events observed by hour for each domain in these three studies 
of home literacy events. 

The second most frequent domain of literacy event observed was 
teaching/learning literacy which was observed 76 times, with a minimum number of 
occurrences of 7 in one family and a maximum of 28 in another family. The average 



245 

number of literacy events observed in the teaching/learning literacy domain was 15.2 
with a standard deviation of 9.3 1 1 3 . The average number of occurrences per hour 
was 2.026 and represented 31.2% of literacy events observed. 



Table 6. 

Frequencies of literacy events and average proportions of occurrences of literacy events per 
hour observed for social domains as compared to Teale' s (1986) and Purcell-Gates (1996) 
findings. 





Purcell-Gates 

(N=24) 


Teale 

(N=22) 


Switzer 

(N=5) 




M 


% 


M 


% 


M 


% 


Entertainment 


.178 


25.8 


.157 


23.8 


2.986 


46.09 


Daily Living 
routines 


.174 


32.3 


.168 


25.5 


0.613 


9.46 


Teaching/Learning 
literacy 


.113 


9.1 


.130 


19.8 


2.026 


31.2 


School-Related 


.097 


12.3 


.074 


11.2 


.2933 


4.52 


Storybook 
Reading 


.086 


5.8 


.006 


.9 


0.186 


2.88 


Interpersonal 
Communication 


.068 


10.5 


.023 


3.5 


.3733 


5.76 


Religion 


.036 


2.1 


.025 


3.8 


0.08 


1.23 


Information 
Network 


.014 


1.5 


.060 


9.1 


.026 


0.41 


Work 


.004 


.8 


.015 


2.3 


.026 


0.41 



246 






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Far fewer occurrences of literacy in the domain of daily living were observed 
in these families than Teale or Purcell-Gates observed in their studies. Events in this 
domain were observed a mere 9.46% of the time and averaged only 0.613 incidents 
per hour. Daily living was observed a total of 23 times, interpersonal communication 
only 14 times (5.76%), while school related was observed 1 1 times (4.52%). 

Similar to Teale and Purcell-Gates, storybook reading was observed 
infrequently in these homes, only 7 times in all. Thus storybook reading occurred 
0. 186 times per hour, occupying a mere 2.88% of the total observed literacy events. 

Similar to Teale (1986) and Purcell-Gates (1996), literacy involving work was 
a rare occurrence. Like the two previous studies, the participants in the Martha's 



247 

Vineyard Brazilian study are employed in positions in which they are unlikely to 
encounter opportunities for literacy, and less likely to bring these instances into their 
homes. The families in this study worked as maids in hotels, landscaping, house 
painting, housecleaning, and in a restaurant. Nilza worked in a pizza parlor making 
pizzas. She did not use a recipe, and it would have been unlikely that she could have 
read an English recipe even if one were given to her. Helena and Sabrina both told 
me that their employers helped them to learn English, studying with them, if you will. 
However their jobs in themselves did not require the use of reading and writing. 

If, on the other hand, they had been able to obtain employment in the 
professions in which they worked in Brazil, the situation would, undoubtedly have 
been quite different for some of them. In Brazil these parents worked as teacher, 
banker, and accountant. It is because of their limited English proficiency that they 
must work in jobs classified as unskilled labor here in the United States. 

The domain of religion is another domain that deserves comment. In this 
study, the instances of literacy events observed in the social domain of religion 
accounted for only 1.23% of all observed literacy events. This is fewer than the 3.8% 
observed by Teale (1986) and the 2.1% observed by Purcell-Gates (1996). It is 
important to bear in mind that these figures represented events that are mediated by 
literacy; that is, that involve reading and writing in some way. Only two households 
gave any evidence of literacy-related activities related to religion. One was in the 
home of Tatiane and involved reading the cover of a religious video. The other was 
in Rosa's home and involved singing religious songs, events that in the other two 
studies would not have even been counted as literacy events. In Janaina's home I saw 



248 

three bibles when she opened the door to the cabinet of books. However, I never 
observed these bibles being used by anyone. Hence they are not included as literacy 
events. 

It is important to be aware that although religion is an important part of 
Brazilian culture (Martes, 1999; He Axe Opo Afonja, 1999), as well as an important 
source of support for Brazilian immigrants in Massachusetts (Martes, 1999); I 
observed few instances of literacy that were in this social domain. The fact that there 
were only a few observable instances of literacy events related to religion is, I 
believe, a result of the lack of reading and writing going on in these homes rather than 
a lack of interest in religion. The focus of this research was to observe literacy events 
and identify the social domains of these events in order to better understand the 
context of these literacy events. 

To expand on this idea, I would also suggest that the reason for the paucity of 
literacy events in the social domain religion and in almost all other domains, except 
entertainment and literacy for the sake of teaching and learning literacy, is related to 
the paucity of printed material in these homes. There simply are very few items 
available in Portuguese for these families to read. 

I find it hardly surprising that people who work two jobs, and have little 
expendable income, are not spending their money buying books because they are in 
all likelihood too tired to read anything except what is most essential to their lives. 
Based on the fact that these families, even those adult members who could speak 
English fluently, still needed the help of either the home visitor or myself to explain 
such things as how to buy a house, how to obtain automobile insurance when the 



249 

insurance company goes bankrupt, and how to apply for health insurance for a young 
child demonstrates the challenges facing these speakers of English as a second 
language. 

The absence of books in the home is the obvious explanation for the paucity 
of storybook reading, especially since two mothers, Helena and Nilza, made it a point 
to tell me that they were in the habit of reading to their children regularly in their 
native language when they lived in Brazil. This, again, is a reflection of the lack of 
available tools for literacy in the language in which these parents are literate. 

The fact that entertainment was the most frequent area of literacy event 
observed in this study is partially because the focus of these observations was 
preschool children who spend most of their time engaged in normal play with dolls or 
toys, or in watching television. For similar reasons, school-age children who might 
be more likely to engage in school-related activities, such as homework, were 
generally not available to interact with the focal child when I was present. The only 
school age children observed in this study were the siblings, Sonia, Rafaela, and 
Gilberto. Gilberto was only present during one of my visits in which he and his 
mother engaged in an extended search for a place where they could order dinner and 
have it delivered. While Sabrina spoke about Sonia, her oldest child, and how she 
was progressing in school, Sonia herself was only present once when I was there. 
She was in the kitchen with the English tutor studying English. Thus, Rafaela, 
Helena's older daughter, was the only school-age child who was present on a regular 
basis during my observations. Therefore Rafaela was the only person in my study 
who would have had the opportunity to be engaged in formal school related literacy 



250 

events during the time of my visit. Janaina, who attended preschool, did engage in 
preschool-related activities, as well. 

Regarding the high frequency of observations of literacy events in the domain 
literacy for the sake of literacy and learning, I believe that this is due to the lack of 
ability to speak and read English as well as desired. The need to be able to read and 
write in English, as well as to speak and understand in English, is of the greatest 
importance to these families as they explained to me in the interviews. Thus 
Augusto's parents studied English and encouraged him to learn English. Tatiane's 
mother, Helena, worked with her employer's electronic translator to learn new 
vocabulary in English. Maria's parents tried but could not get into English classes 
and so they bought a set of English language audio tapes so that they could study 
English. Janaina' s parents told me that they made a point to always have the close- 
captions on when watching television (which was always in English in their house) to 
help them learn English and to help Janaina learn to read. 

A second explanation for why so much literacy activity was focused on 
literacy for the sake of teaching and learning literacy in these homes is likely because 
these families were very concerned about the literacy development of their children. 
When asked directly how they saw their role as their child's first and most important 
teacher, they all, without, exception, said that it was not their job to teach their 
children. Yet in all of these families the parents were making efforts to actively 
support their children's literacy development. Further evidence supporting the view 
that these parents are, indeed, very actively involved in the literacy development of 
their children may also be gleaned from the interviews in which parents expressed on 



251 

the one hand, their belief that their children were intelligent and on the other hand, 
some concerns that the American schools would not sufficiently challenge their 
children academically. 

This may be partly due to the influence of the Head Start program. However, 
it may also be that these families sought out the Head Start program because they 
were keenly interested in their children's academic and educational success. 

Another observable fact in looking at the data is that the high frequency of 
literacy events observed in the domain literacy for the sake of teaching and learning 
literacy is due to the fact that two of the families (Janaina's and Augusto's) were far 
more involved in activities in this social domain than the other three families. These 
two families were observed to engage in far more literacy events in this domain 
because 1) Augusto's mother spent a great deal of time studying English, and 2) 
Janaina's parents made a conscious effort to have books, encourage writing, and 
encourage reading in English. In Augusto's family the focus of literacy for its own 
sake was on learning English. In Janaina's family the focus of literacy for its own 
sake was in supporting Janaina's literacy development in English. 

Language usage by domain 

In addition to participant structure, each literacy event also had one of three 
language usages: English, Portuguese, or bilingual English and Portuguese. Table 7 
displays a summary of language usages for literacy events by domain. 



252 



Language 


Table 7 

Usage by Domain 






English 


Portuguese 


Bilingual 


Entertainment 


41 


44 


5 


Daily Living 


8 


9 


2 


Religion 





3 





Interpersonal Communication 


2 


6 





School Related 


5 


5 





Storybook Reading 


3 


4 





Information Network 











Teaching/Learning Literacy 


17 


35 


7 


Work Related 





1 






The frequencies of literacy events in which English was used were analyzed 
by domain. The domain entertainment had the greatest number of events (41) in 
English. This was followed by teaching/learning literacy with 1 7 and daily living 
with 8. This was out of a total of 76 literacy events in which English was used 
Table 8 provides complete data on English language usage for literacy events 
observed. Not surprisingly, it can be noted that two of the families, Maria's and 
Tatiane's, who appeared to have the least proficiency in English also were engaged in 
the fewest number of literacy events in English. However, Augusto's family, who 
also appeared to have a low level of English proficiency, was observed to engage in 
almost as many English literacy activities as Janaina's family, with the greatest 
English language proficiency. This was primarily due to the large amount of studying 
English in this family, as well as talking alphabet toys and English signs for 
Augusto's matchbox cars. 





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254 

Just as occurred in the analysis of English by domain, the domain, 
entertairmient had the greatest frequency of literacy events in Portuguese with 44 
events observed. Following the same patterns as was seen for observed literacy 
events in English, the domains teaching/learning literacy followed in frequency of 
events with 35 events in Portuguese. This was out of a total of 1 15 events in 
Portuguese. See Table 9 for complete information for Portuguese usage during 
literacy events. 

In addition to English or Portuguese usage, some literacy events were observed to be 
conducted using a combination of both English and Portuguese. Such language 
mixes were coded as bilingual by domain. Only 14 such instances were observed 
during the study, and similar to other results, the domains in which the most literacy 
events were noted were teaching/learning literacy. The literacy events that were 
observed in a combination of English and Portuguese in the homes of Maria, Augusto 
and Tatiane were signing up for a box at the Post Office, reading labels on food 
package, playing with and translating toys, looking up a word in an English- 
Portuguese dictionary, etc. In short they involved some kind of translating or or other 
explicit learning activity. In the homes of the two focal children who were bilingual, 
I also observed children occasionally switching from one language to another while 
speaking to others who were bilingual. Table 10 shows complete data for bilingual 
literacy events. 





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257 

As can be seen from the results of the data analysis with respect to 
language usage during literacy events, the domains entertainment and teaching/learning 
literacy were the domains in which the greatest frequencies of literacy events were 
observed, regardless of language used. 

There were only 14 literacy events noted in a combination of English and 
Portuguese. Therefore, there was not a great deal of variation observed among these 
families for bilingual literacy events. However, Janaina's and Rosa's families engaged in 
more bilingual activities than Maria's and Tatiane's. 

Not surprisingly, the two families in which the parents and focal child had the 
greatest degree of English proficiency engaged in more English and bilingual activities. 
There was little difference among the families in Portuguese usage, and all five families 
engaged in a considerable amount of literacy activities in their native language. 

Augusto's family who spoke almost no English appears to be an anomaly. Their 
frequencies of English and bilingual activities were nearly equal to the two families who 
spoke English very well. However, on closer examination it can be seen that nearly all of 
these activities were in the domain teaching/learning literacy and entertainment. 



Analyses by Major Social Variables 

It is clear that if we accept the premise that literacy is influenced by the context in 
which it is situated, then it is important to also examine other variables within the home 
that might affect the exposure of these children to literacy experiences. Obviously, 
because these families were all participants in Head Start, they were all low-income 
families or they would not have qualified for the program. We also know that by the 



258 

parameters of this study, they were all of the same cultural, ethnic and linguistic 
background. There were, however, some other differences among the participants. There 
were differences in the participant structure of the literacy events. By participant 
structure of the literacy events I mean the participants, both adult and children, who were 
involved in that event, either directly or through observing that event. There was only a 
slight difference in ages of the children since they all were in the Head Start preschool 
program. There were obvious differences in the English fluency of both the parents and 
the children in this study, and there may also have been differences in parental education 
levels. 

Information regarding parental education level was not explicitly asked of all 
parents. Some parents volunteered this information; and one parent, Janaina's mother, 
said that she could not remember how long she had gone to school. However I have 
attempted to construct some idea about the education level of these parents based on what 
they said about their occupational status in Brazil. 

It is likely that those parents who were employed in white collar jobs in Brazil 
had completed high school, and those who were employed in unskilled labor positions in 
Brazil in all likelihood did not complete high school in Brazil. None of the parents in my 
study directly indicated that they had graduated from a university in Brazil. Helena, who 
was an elementary school teacher in Brazil, in all likelihood, did not have a college 
degree because this is not required of teachers in Brazil. According to a recent Brazilian 
government publication (SECOM, 2002), teachers of "the first to fourth grades of 
elementary education must hold a preparatory course certificate in education". However a 
college degree is not required. In 1995, three years before Helena left Brazil, only 18.1% 



259 

of teachers in grades 1 to 4 had graduated from the preparatory course and received their 
Ucense (Ministry of Planning, Brazil, 2002). 

I have assumed that Nilza who worked in the office of a newspaper, Mario who 
was a banker, Helena who was a teacher, Eduardo who was an accountant, and Sabrina 
who said that she was well-off and never needed to work most likely completed high 
school. I have assumed that Larissa who could not remember how long she went to 
school and Denise who had a variety of jobs including making clothing at home, working 
in a gambling hall, and working in a poultry market probably did not complete high 
school in Brazil. Neither Sabrina nor Denise told me about their husbands' occupations 
in Brazil. Helena told me her husband worked for a milk cooperative, but she did not say 
what he did. Therefore, I will not venture a guess as to the educational levels of these 
three men who were the fathers of Rosa, Augusto, and Tatiane. In table 11,1 have 
indicated that this information was not available. 

Another variable likely to influence the exposure these children have to literacy 
events at home is the English ability of the parents and of the focal children themselves. 
This is because access to books, materials, media, and other literacy resources in English 
would be limited by the degree of English language proficiency of the parents or 
children. Since I did not administer English language proficiency assessments to the 
participants in this study, I devised a holistic scale, based on my personal observations, of 
the English ability of these participants, using the following scale: 1= needs interpreter 
for all tasks, 2= needs interpreter for some tasks, 3= needs interpreter for occasional 
tasks, 4 = rarely needs interpreter. Using this scale I assigned a score from 1 to 4 to each 
child. In assigning a score for the parents, I used one score to indicate the proficiency of 



260 

the parent who had the greatest level of English language proficiency in a family. This 
was because I assumed that the access available for the most fluent parent would also 
become available to the entire family through that parent. Thus, in the case of Janaina's 
family, her mother could speak no English at all, but her father could speak English very 
well. It was, therefore, his knowledge and his access to English language resources that 
brought those resources to the family. Finally, I determined a single score for the family 
which represented the sum of the parents' English proficiency and the child's English 
proficiency. See tables 1 1 and 12. 

It is important to point out that while Janaina and Rosa each were scored on a 
scale indicating a higher level of English proficiency than their parents, this does not 
mean that they speak better English than their parents do. The English language demands 
of a preschool child are quite different from those of an adult. Both Janaina and Rosa 
were fluent in all the English language required for stringing beads, naming colors, 
listening to stories, talking about the pictures they drew, and so forth. Their parents, on 
the other hand, required help with interpreting a health insurance application, and in 
understanding how to apply for a mortgage. These activities require a very different 
level of proficiency in English, yet they are both appropriate demands for the age and 
developmental level of the participants in this study. 

Each literacy event also involved, not only the focal child, but also other adults 
and siblings either directly (through intercommunicative involvement) or indirectly (in 
the focal child's presence, but not directly involved). Thus, Mario teaching his daughter 
to put the "little hat" on the letter "f ' was a literacy event in which Maria was directly 
involved with her father. An event in which the participants were indirectly involved was 



261 



when Sabrina was within earshot and access of Augusto while she was practicing and 
studying English with her tutor. 

Furthermore, the number and type of participants in the literacy events varied 
from family to family and included at various times, older siblings, Head Start home 
visitor, grandmother, researcher, English tutor, friends, neighbors, and so forth. These 
various participants also were involved either directly or indirectly with the focal child 
for some literacy events. In table 11,1 have summarized some of the major social 
variables for the literacy events observed for each focal child in this study. 



Table 1 1 Information relating to social variables associated with literacy events 




Focal 
child 


Age 


Siblings 
participating in 
literacy events 


Adults 

participating in 
literacy events'^ 


Parental 
Education 


English proficiency 


M 


F 


p^M 


F/M'' 


Total 


Augusto 


4 


Sonia, 12 


M, F, fr, gr, t 


HS 


NA 


1 


1 


2 


Janaina 


4 





M, F, hsv, fr, 


HS 


<HS 


4 


3 


7 


Maria 


5 





M, f, hsv, 


HS 


HS 


2 


1 


3 


Tatiane 


3 


Rafaela, 
8 


M 


HS 


NA 


2 


1 


3 


Rosa 


3 


Gilberto, 

15 


M, hsv. 


<HS 


NA 


4 


3 


7 



Participant Structure 

Every observed literacy event had one or more persons involved, as previously 
discussed. For review, I elected to code events in which the focal child was present for 
the following participant structures: (1) focal child (engaged in a literacy event) alone, (2) 
mother with focal child or in the presence of focal child, (3) father with focal child or in 
the presence of focal child, (4) sibling with focal child or in the presence of focal child. 



'^ M=mother, F=father, fr=friend, gr=grandmother, t=tutor, hsv=Head Start home visitor 

" FC=focal child 

'^ F/M=Father or mother, whichever had the highest level of English proficiency 



262 



(5) any other adult with focal child or in presence of focal child. I did not count the 
literacy events in which only the researcher and the focal child were interacting in a 
literacy event. As discussed earlier, this participant structure would not be a normal part 
of the focal child's literacy environment. This only happened when the focal child drew 
me into an activity, and I retreated from this stance as soon as possible. However, 
because they were literacy events engaged in by the focal child, these events were 
counted in the literacy events analyzed by domain. They were only eliminated for the 
discussion of participant structure. 

Focal child alone 

Literacy events in which the focal child was acting alone were the most common, 
over all. Of all the literacy events observed, 82 were events in which children were 
alone. The focal children in this study engaged in literacy events alone at an average of 
2.186 events per hour. This represents 34.3% of all literacy events in which they were 
directly or indirectly involved. 

It was notable that out of the 82 total literacy events in which the child was alone, 
57 were in the entertainment domain. The range of occurrences was 4 for Janaina and 19 
for Rosa, with an average number of occurrences of 1 1 .4. Much of the entertainment 
engaged in by all of the focal children was when they were playing alone, and not 
interacting with anyone. When Maria played with her dolls and gave her doll a book to 
read, when Augusto arranged the stop signs and street signs for his matchbox cars, and 
when Janaina or Rosa watched cartoons with close-captions in English, they were all 
engaging alone in literacy events in the social domain of entertainment. 

It is also not surprising that children alone were not involved in daily living, 
religion or work related literacy events, as these are not normally the domains initiated by 
children. There were only 4 instances of storybook reading alone. This also is not 



263 



surprising because none of the children knew how to read. However, Augusto had 
storybooks and did spend time alone looking at them, turning the pages, and studying the 
pictures as if trying to gamer meaning from their pages. He was the only child in the 
study who engaged in this activity alone. 

It is also interesting that there were 17 or 20.7% of literacy for the sake of 
teaching and learning literacy engaged in by these children alone. However, all of these 
literacy events were engaged in by Augusto and Janaina, while the other three children 
engaged in no literacy activities alone in this domain. Augusto, particularly, with his 
little case of chalk, letters, numbers, and pegboard and his workbook from Brazil, 
accounted for twice as many of these instances as did Janaina. 

Mother with focal child or in the presence of focal child 

The participant structure code. Mother with focal child or in the presence of focal 
child, was applied to all activities in which the mother and child were involved in the 
activity, including activities in which others may have been involved as well. This code 
also indicated activities that the mother was involved in alone, but in the presence of the 
focal child, such as when Sabrina was studying English while sitting next to Augusto 
who was watching television. 

Literacy events involving the mother, either directly or indirectly, accounted for a 
total of 59 literacy events. These occurrences were observed at a frequency rate of 1 .573 
such events per hour, and accounted for 24.6% of the total literacy events. 

The greatest number of these (24) or 40.6% was in the domain, teaching/learning 
literacy for literacy's sake. Most of these occurrences were in Augusto's home, where all 
nine of the literacy events in which his mother was involved were in this domain. Over 
half of these literacy events occurred in the homes of Augusto and Maria combined. 
From this it can be seen that Sabrina' s and Nilza's involvement with their children. 



264 



Augusto and Maria, in teaching and learning literacy for the sake of literacy accounts for 
the frequency of occurrences of this literacy event. 

The second greatest number of events involving the mother (10) was in the two 
domains entertainment and daily living. The incidents of these events appeared 2 to 3 
times per family, except in Augusto 's family where his mother was only observed to be 
involved in literacy for the sake of literacy. The mothers in this study were frequently 
engaged in play with their children, such as when Maria's mother helped her to decipher 
the directions for the Barney game, entertainment. When Helena was in the Brazilian 
store with Rafaela reading the recipe on the food package and discussing whether to 
purchase the item, they were engaging in a literacy event in the daily living domain in 
Tatiane's presence. 

Father with focal child or in the presence of focal child 

Domains of literacy events were similarly coded for events involving or in the 
presence of fathers. Once again, the domain entertainment had the greatest frequency (20 
out of a total of 40) of such events. The average number of events per hour for this 
participant structure was 1.066, or only 16.7% of the total literacy events. However, this 
also does not represent what occurred in all five families. In fact, all 39 of these 40 
literacy events occurred in the homes of Maria and Janaina. Augusto 's father was 
observed in a literacy event once when he sat in the living room next to Augusto studying 
English. However, it is important not to jump to the conclusion that the fathers of 
Tatiane, Rosa, and Augusto were not interested. 

The fact of the matter is that they simply were rarely, if ever, present during one 
of my home visits. In Rosa's case, her father was usually working at the store which her 



265 

parents owned. Most of my home visits were during the day when those fathers were at 
work. 

Both Maria's and Janaina's fathers were very involved in teaching their children 
reading and writing. However, there were many differences in the lives of these two 
fathers. Eduardo, Janaina's father, had been in the United States longer than any other 
participants in the project. His English was very good and he had been in this country 
long enough to have developed some understanding of the workings of American culture 
as well as experience in accessing the resources available in the American mainstream 
culture. Mario, on the other hand, had been in this country only a few months. He was 
still acclimating to the United States workplace and cold climate, not to mention that he 
could not speak any English. Perhaps the only conclusion that can be drawn regarding 
involvement of fathers in literacy events in these five families is that those who were 
home with their children were observed to be very involved with them in literacy events. 

One thing that can be derived from this is that we are reminded of the obvious, 
that for parents to be involved in literacy activities with their children, they must be home 
or somewhere with their children. This study occurred during the fall and winter months, 
the off-tourist season when many of the Brazilian living on Martha's Vineyard are out of 
work. This may be the reason why two of the fathers were at home in the middle of the 
day, rather than at work. 

However, we also know from the interviews that these parents often work unusual 
hours, frequently on weekends when the majority of the off-season stores and restaurants 
are open. We are reminded also that when the tourist season returns, both parents will be 
working, likely two jobs. And one can envision long periods of time in which children 



266 

are with a babysitter or perhaps with older siblings, watching television. Parents may be 
straddling shifts so as to share their child care responsibilities, and when parents are 
home after working 12 to 16 hour days how much energy will they have to be engaged in 
literacy activities with their children, if they are even awake at all. 

Sibling with focal child or in the presence of focal child 

Similar to the above analyses, literacy events were also coded for the participant 
structure, sibling with focal child or in the presence of focal child. Maria and Janaina 
had no siblings during the first half of the research period. Then Janaina' s brother was 
bom. Thus, only three of the focal children had siblings with whom they could have been 
observed engaging in literacy activities. Sonia was not observed at all engaged in any 
literacy events with or in the presence of the focal child, Augusto. This was due to the 
fact that she was rarely present, either because she was in school, or she was in the other 
unit of the duplex where she lived with her grandmother and uncle. Therefore all of the 
literacy events involving siblings were with Rosa and Tatiane. In these families there 
were a total of 30 literacy events observed in which focal children were engaged with 
siblings in literacy events. Of these, the greatest number (9) was in the domain, daily 
living. 

Rosa's stepbrother, Gilberto, was 15 years old, and he also was frequently not at 
home during my home visits. However during the times when he was at home, he was 
observed to be engaged in daily living events, such as the extended discussion of what to 
order for diimer, one day. This was the reason for the frequency of literacy events with 
sibling in that domain. 



267 

Other adult with focal child or in the presence of focal child 
The final participant structure for which literacy events were coded by domain 
was other adult with focal child or in the presence of focal child. As previously 
discussed, all other adults included the Head Start home visitor, English language tutor, 
grandmother, and friend. There were 1 6 literacy events observed in which some other 
adult was present. However, it is important to note that in 13 of these events, the adult 
was the Head Start home visitor. Once a friend of Janaina's family who was visiting 
helped her to write her name. One time Augusto's grandmother talked to him about the 
"studying" he was doing in his Brazilian school workbook, and one time Augusto talked 
to the English tutor about learning English. All other times the Head Start home visitor 
was the other adult involved with the focal child in a literacy activity. Since the Head 
Start home visitor was not present for any of my observations in Tatiane's or Augusto's 
home this meant that Tatiane was never observed to be involved in literacy events with 
any other adults besides her parents during the times of my visits. 

As will be recalled, parents who agreed to participate in this study agreed that 
they would arrange home visits at times when I would be able to observe the normal 
activities in their home. There was never any discussion as to whether or not a Head 
Start visitor should or should not be present at my home visits. Since the visit by the 
Head Start home visitor was a normal occurrence in the lives of these families, it would 
seem natural and normal for families to sometimes schedule my visits at the same time as 
the Head Start home visitor. An additional benefit was that it gave me the opportunity to 
include the Head Start home visits as part of my observations, something that I had 
actually not anticipated prior to beginning the observations. 



268 

It happened once in each of these three homes that the mother double-booked the 
home visits for me and the Head Start home visitor. It is possible that those who 
scheduled the Head Start home visit at the same time as my observation did so for 
scheduling convenience. Both the Head Start home visitor and I required that the focal 
child be present, and since Janaina, Rosa, and Maria were out of the house and at a 
preschool part of the time, there were limits as to the times when home visits could be 
scheduled. 

In any case, this means that the literacy events in which the Head Start home 
visitor was present only occurred once in each of those three families. During this one 
visit, I observed 5 literacy events during the Head Start home visit in Janaina' s home, 6 
literacy events during the Head Start home visit in Rosa's home, and 2 in Maria's home. 
Considering the fact that the home visitor was not present during my entire period of 
observation, but only for a portion of it, it is safe to say that the Head Start home visitor 
was the instrument of a significant number of literacy events, comparatively speaking. 
The Head Start home visitor was present for approximately one hour for each of these 
three visits, in which these 1 6 literacy events were observed. 

As can be seen from the above analyses, the most common participant structure 
overall was focal child alone with a total of 82 literacy events observed with this 
structure. Literacy events with mother with focal child or in the presence of focal child 
(59) and father with focal child or in the presence of focal child (40) were the participant 
structures with the next greatest frequencies. The following table displays totals for all 
domains by participant structure. 



269 



Table 12 Participant Structures for All Domains (excluding researcher) 




Focal 
Child 
Alone 


With 
Mother 


With 
Father 


With 
Sibling 


With 
Other 
Adult 


Sum 


Entertainment 


57 


10 


20 


12 


12 


111 


Daily Living 





10 


5 


9 


2 


26 


Religion 





3 











3 


Interpersonal 
Communication 


2 


8 


1 


4 





15 


School Related 


1 


3 











4 


Storybook Reading 


4 





1 





2 


7 


Information 
Network 


1 














1 


Teaching/Learning 
Literacy 


17 


24 


13 


4 


12 


70 


Work Related 





1 





1 





2 


Sums 


82 


59 


40 


30 


28 


239 


Av/hr/37.5 


2.186 


1.573 


1.066 


0.8 


0.746 




% 


34.3 


24.6 


16.7 


12.5 


11.7 





The above analyses demonstrate the variety of domains and participant structures 
related to the literacy events observed in the homes of the five families in this study. 
However, there were some commonalities among them. The domains most frequently 
observed in all of the families were: entertainment and teaching/learning literacy. The 
most common participant structure was focal child alone, followed by mother with focal 
child or in the presence of focal child, and then father with focal child or in the presence 
of focal child. The 28 instances for the participant structure, focal child alone with 
researcher were not discussed, because in the naturalistic setting of the home in which the 
researcher would not normally be present, it is unknown whether the focal child would 
engage in those activities alone or would elicit the involvement of another person in the 
household. 



270 



English language proficiency 

In order to explore the possible relationship between language usages during 
literacy events and the English proficiency of parents, I examined the data in relation to 
English language proficiency. As discussed previously, I gave each family a score for 
English language proficiency of parents and of the focal child on a scale of 1 to 4. 

The two focal children, Janaina and Rosa, who were most fluent in English, rarely 
needing an interpreter, also were observed to have the greatest number of literacy events 
per hour, 8.8 and 8.32, respectively. They each also had at least one parent who was very 
fluent in English, needing an interpreter only for occasional tasks. However, Augusto's 
average number of literacy events observed per hour at 7.33 was only slightly lower than 
Janaina' s and Rosa's and neither he nor his parents could speak more than a negligible 
amount of English. Maria and Tatiane were both beginning to learn English in their 
preschools, but their parents could not speak any English. 

Table 13 makes it evident that the highest English proficiency scores of 4, 3, and 
7 for Rosa and Janaina were associated with the greatest frequency of literacy events 
observed per hour. Augusto, Maria and Tatiane all had lower scores of English 
proficiency with Augusto at 1, 1, and 2; and Maria and Tatiane at 2, 1, and 3. Augusto 
appears to be the anomaly. For the other four children there does appear to be a 
correlation between English proficiency of children and English proficiency of parents to 
the frequency of literacy events. Augusto's high frequency of literacy events is also 
related to the unusual amount of studying and learning English that was happening in his 
home. 



271 



Table 13 English language ability and literacy events per hour 



FC/hours 


Total 


Av/hr 


English 
proficiency 


FC 


F/M 


Sum 


Augusto/7.5 


55 


7.33 


1 


1 


2 


Janaina/6.25 


55 


8.8 


4 


3 


7 


Maria/8.75 


46 


5.25 


2 


1 


3 


Tatiane/8.75 


35 


4.00 


2 


1 


3 


Rosa/6.25 


52 


8.32 


4 


3 


7 


Sum 


243 


33.7 








Mean 


48.6 


6.74 









I suspect that the relationship between English language proficiency and 
frequency of observed literacy events is not related to English ability, per se; but is 
related to the consequences of proficiency or lack of proficiency in English. The most 
obvious consequence of lack of proficiency in English on the part of either parent or child 
is that the vast majority of environmental literacy that comes or could come into the 
home through the uses of newspapers, books, magazines, crossword puzzles, etc. simply 
are not usable in the homes in which the focal children and the parents are not proficient 
in English. 

The Brazilian parents and children who were not proficient in English simply did 
not have access to the normal tools of literacy in the mainstream American culture 
because those are written in English. While it is true that they are proficient in 
Portuguese, they do not have literate materials in Portuguese available to them because 
they generally are not available in the United States. Thus it would appear, that in this 
small sample, Augusto excepted, English proficiency is related to frequency of literacy 
events observed in these homes. 



272 

Parental education 

Another social variable which is sometimes used as an indicator of literacy in 
young children is parental education level. As previously discussed, because this 
information was not available, I attempted to construct a probable education level, based 
on the occupations the parents held in Brazil. There were important limitations in 
attempting to do this. In some families I only had this information for one parent. Also, 
a college education would not necessarily be required for a teacher, accountant or office 
manager in Brazil as it is in the United States. 

With so little information, it is impossible to know if parental education level has 
any relationship to the frequency of literacy activities in the homes of these five children. 
Even if my aforementioned assumptions regarding their education levels in Brazil were 
correct, there still is no discernible correlation. Janaina, who was observed to have 
proportionately more literacy events than the other four children, had a mother who 
probably had little formal education, while her father reported that he finished high 
school. Tatiane, who was observed involved with the lowest frequency of literacy events 
per hour, had a mother who was a teacher, and may have had additional training even 
beyond high school. However we know nothing of her father's education level. There 
simply is not enough information to determine if there is a relationship between parental 
education and frequency of literacy events for the families in this study. Table 14 shows 
the assumed parental education levels and the frequency of literacy events per hour. 



273 



Table 14 Parental education and average frequency of literacy events per hour 



FC/hours 


Total 


Av/hr 


Parental 
Education 








M 


F 


Augusto/7.5 


55 


7.33 


HS 


NA 


Janaina/6.25 


55 


8.8 


HS 


<HS 


Maria/8.75 


46 


5.25 


HS 


HS 


Tatiane/8.75 


35 


4.00 


HS 


NA 


Rosa/6.25 


52 


8.32 


<HS 


NA 



Length of time in United States 

One other variable that could be linked to the frequency off literacy events in the 
homes of these five children is the length of time in the United States. The five children 
in this study had parents who had lived in the United States for varying amounts of times. 
Two had arrived only within the previous few months, two had parents who had lived in 
the United States for 8 or more years, and one had been in the United States 1 8 months at 
the time this study began. Furthermore two of the children, Rosa and Janaina, were 
bom in the United States and had lived their entire lives here. 

The two children who were bom in the United States, not surprisingly, also had 
parents who had lived in the United States for the longest periods of time. These two 
children also were observed to have the greatest frequency of literacy events per hour in 
their homes. The other three children had been in this country 6 to 1 8 months, and in two 
of these homes, the fathers of the children (Tatiane's and Augusto's) had lived in the 
United States either continuously or intermittently for up to three years before the 
children and their mothers moved here. Maria's family was the only one of these three 
who had moved to the United States together as a unit. Of these three families, Augusto 
again appears to be the anomaly because the other two children who had been in the 



274 

United States for less time were observed to have fewer literacy events observed per 
hour. 

If Augusto is viewed as an anomaly here, because of his mother's strong emphasis 
on learning, then there does appear to be a relationship between length of time in the 
United States and frequency of literacy events in the home. This is similar to the 
relationship that seems to exist between English proficiency and frequency of literacy 
events, and length of time in the United States and English proficiency are undoubtedly 
related. The longer these families lived and worked in the United States the greater was 
their exposure to English and the more opportunity they had to formally study the 
language. Therefore it would not be surprising to find that length of time in the United 
States is one major predictor of English language proficiency. 

I suspect that the length of time in the United States is a variable which affects 
literacy events in the home by increasing access to the literacy resources of the 
mainstream American culture. The length of time in the United States correlates very 
well with the English proficiency of these participants, and this English proficiency 
allows families to have a greater knowledge and understanding of information through 
books, resources, community services, schools, and the media that may positively 
influence the literacy development of children. 

Furthermore, I suspect that the length of time in the United States also increases 
access to these literacy resources that are often embedded in mainstream American 
culture by the gradual acceptance of customs and mores of the mainstream culture that 
may have seemed idiosyncratic or problematic to these Brazilian in their earlier months 
and years of adjustment to the United States. Much has been written about the complex 



275 



relationship between affective factors and second language acquisition. Self-esteem 
(Oiler, Hudson, and Liu, 1977), anxiety (Brown, 1987; Carroll, 1963; Chastain, 1975), 
and acculturation (Stauble, 1980; Schumann, 1978) all may play a part in how quickly a 
person leams a new language. It would seem that the longer a person has lived in the 
United States the greater is the likelihood that s/he has accepted the strangeness of the 
new culture as normal, and this attitude would likely also make it easier to comfortably 
seek out the literacy, educational and other resources available in the culture. 

In this study it would appear that, Augusto excepted, the length of time the 
parents (and focal children) have lived in the United States correlates favorably with 
literacy events observed in the home. Table 15 shows this more clearly. 

Table 15 Length of time in the United States and frequency of literacy events per hour 



FC/hours 


Av/hr 


Yrs in United States 


M 


F 


FC 


Augusto 


7.33 


6 mos. 


3 yrs. 


6 mos. 


Janaina 


8.8 


1 1 yrs. 


10 yrs. 


Bom 

US 


Maria 


5.25 


6 mos. 


6 mos. 


6 mos. 


Tatiane 


4.00 


18 
mos. 


3 yrs. 


18 mos. 


Rosa 


8.32 


8 yrs. 


NA 


Bom 

US 



Summary and Reflections 

Literacy events were identified from field notes of in-home observations and were 
coded by type of event (reading, writing, talking, choosing, coloring, drawing, singing, 
looking at, playing with, on the phone, copying, showing) and social domain of event 



276 

(Daily living, entertainment, information network, interpersonal communication , 
religion, school related, storybook reading, teaching/learning literacy, work related). The 
frequencies of literacy events observed varied from household to household. 

The most frequent literacy event observed for all children in the study was talking 
about some aspect of literacy and the most frequent domain of literacy activities observed 
was entertainment. Almost half of all literacy events observed in these five families fell 
into this domain. The second most frequent domain of observed literacy events was 
teaching/learning literacy. However, activities in the entertainment domain were 
observed nearly twice as fi:equently as those in the teaching/learning literacy domain. 

Print items observed in the home were also coded for domain. Although there 
was also a considerable amount of variation among the families in the numbers and 
domains of print items observed, the most common domain of observed print items in 
three of the five families was daily living. 

Domains of literacy events were examined for participant structure (focal child 
alone, focal child with researcher only, mother with focal child or in the presence of focal 
child, father with focal child or in the presence of focal child, sibling with focal child or 
in the presence of focal child, and other adult with focal child or in presence of focal 
child). Literacy events that were most commonly observed with the participant structure 
mother with focal child or in the presence of focal child were in the domain 
teaching/learning literacy. For the structure, father with focal child or in the presence of 
focal child the most frequently observed domain of literacy events was entertainment (20 
out ofa total of 40). 



277 

In the case of the participant structure, other aduh with focal child or in the 
presence of focal child, the most common "other adult" was the Head Start home visitor. 

Literacy events were also examined for language usage (English, Portuguese, 
Bilingual English and Portuguese) by domain. Few literacy events with the language 
usage. Bilingual English and Portuguese, were observed. 

Data were also examined in relation to English language proficiency of parents 
and/or focal children. The two families in which the parents and focal child had the 
greatest degree of English proficiency engaged in more literacy events than the families 
who were not proficient in English. All five families were observed to engage in frequent 
literacy activities in Portuguese, regardless of their English proficiency. Similar to 
English language proficiency, length of time in the United States also was related to an 
increase in frequency of literacy events observed. A relation to parental education could 
not be determined. 

In comparing the in-home literacy events observed in this study with those in two 
other studies of English-only families in the United States (Teale, 1986; Purcell-Gates, 
1996), activities in the social domain daily living were replaced by those in the domain, 
entertainment, as the domain of most frequently observed literacy events. Furthermore 
literacy for the sake of teaching/learning literacy was observed in this study at a 
frequency similar to daily living in the two previous studies, and was the domain of the 
second greatest frequency of literacy events. 

In this study of five Brazilian Head Start families, over 75% of all literacy 
activities occurred in the two domains, entertainment and literacy for the sake of 
teaching/learning literacy. Furthermore the majority of literacy events occurred with the 



278 

focal child engaged in the literacy event alone, and that literacy event was most 
frequently in the entertainment domain. This may be related to the fact that the parents 
are frequently busy working or, in one case, studying English, during much of the time. 

The second greatest number of literacy events was in the teaching/learning 
domain and was most frequently engaged in by the mother and the focal child or in the 
presence of the focal child. This high involvement of the mothers in teaching and 
learning with their preschool children may also be related to the reasons that these parents 
came to the United States in the first place - to make a better life for their child. These 
parents were, perhaps, so motivated to see that their children had the best opportunities in 
life that they decided to make the sacrifice of immigration and separation from loved 
ones to make this happen. The participant structures observed affirm the idea that, 
although these families are very well integrated in their extended families in Brazil, this 
has not extended to their life in the United States. Were it not for Head Start, there would 
have been precious few literacy events with other adults to be observed. It is evident that 
these families, who by their own words, were accustomed to having family, neighbors 
and firiends frequently involved in the lives of their children, no longer have this network. 
And whatever network these families may have been able to construct did not include 
literacy events. 

In addition to the level of English proficiency, the length of time in the United 
States was also positively correlated to the frequency of literacy events in the homes. I 
believe that this is related to the varying degrees of limited English proficiency in these 
homes and the implications this has on the family's ability to access the resources of 
literacy in the mainstream American culture. 



279 

There was no question that all of these parents were literate in their native 
language of Portuguese, and, based on the interviews, that they valued literacy and 
education for their children. The fact that they enrolled their children in Head Start and 
in preschool is further evidence of this. 

However, they face significant barriers in attempting to access the literate riches 
of ovir culture. These barriers include lack of proficiency in English, lack of 
understanding of how to access literacy resources in the United States, lack of time due to 
their long work hours, lack of expendable income for books in any language, resistance to 
accepting American culture which may be related to loneliness for their homeland and 
the fear of the subversive effects of Americanism, lack of social supports due to loss of 
the extended family in Brazil. All of this together paints a picture of five families 
struggling mightily to provide the best life possible for their children as well as family in 
Brazil, while paying a heavy price for their endeavors. 



280 

Chapter VIII: Implications for practice and further research 
Introduction 

This study, by viewing the literacy practices embedded in the home environment 
of a group of Brazilian Head Start children, provides us with a picture of young children 
and their parents engaging in a variety of literacy activities. It also described the 
challenges to the literacy development of these children as a result of experiences related 
to their immigration to the United States. 

It is important to note that although the five Head Start children in the study 
shared a common heritage and a common home language, they also had many 
differences. Their families were from differing socio-economic backgrounds in Brazil, 
and their parents were of differing educational backgrounds. Although the children were 
all preschool age children, their parents differed in age, in length of time in the United 
States, and in English language proficiency. Their parents were of different occupational 
backgrounds. They were of different religions. They were from households of different 
sizes. Some had siblings. Others did not. What these families did share in common was 
a desire to give their children the best learning opportunities available to them, and for 
this reason they all had found their way to the Head Start program. 

As a study of a group of five Head Start Brazilian children living on Martha's 
Vineyard, this research may or may not reflect the literacy practices in the homes of other 
Brazilian children or other immigrant children living on Martha's Vineyard or elsewhere. 
However, the results of this study do raise questions that may be relevant to other 
populations. More research with Brazilian and other immigrant populations is warranted 
to fiirther the understanding of the literacy environment in the homes of such families, as 



281 

well as provide a deeper and broader understanding of how the immigration experience 
affects their lives. 

Regarding the population under study, there are several important implications we 
can derive based on the results. 

Assumptions and Bias 

First and foremost, assumptions that practitioners may make about these families 
based on experience with low income American families do not reflect the experiences of 
the families in this study. The connection between low income, job status, and parental 
education did not appear to reflect the so-called cycle of illiteracy that is assumed to be a 
fact for low income, poorly educated, poor or unemployed American families in the 
United States. Although they are low-income families in the United States, by American 
standards, the families in this study were not from the lower class in Brazil. Several of 
them had held professional middle class jobs before coming to the United States. 
Therefore it is important for practitioners not to assume that because they are low-income 
in the United States that they are poorly educated or that they do not value education and 
learning. Quite the contrary was observed in the families in this study. 

This understanding is important because such biases may influence the way 
teachers, administrators, and social service professionals relate to these families. Unlike 
the low income Appalachian children who did not understand the uses of the tools of 
literacy in their homes (Purcell-Gates, 1997), these children all were very familiar with 
the appropriate uses of pens, pencils, and paper. I never observed pens being used for 
guns or paper being used for airplanes as Purcell-Gates reported (1997). 



282 

For these families there was no need to teach anyone the purpose of Hterate 
materials. These were already a part of their lives, and every one of the parents expressed 
their desire for their children to have a good education. Indeed, they may have been 
attracted to Head Start because of this desire. This is an important strength of these 
families that needs to be recognized and supported whenever possible. 

Another common assumption made by many Americans is that Brazilians are 
Hispanics. For Brazilians, who are neither descendants of Spanish explorers nor who 
speak the Spanish language, it is problematic and insulting to be classified as Hispanics. 
Brazilians have a unique culture which derives from the commingling of three heritages: 
colonists and the royal court from Portugal, indigenous populations who lived in Brazil 
prior to its colonization, and Africans who were brought to Brazil as slaves (Ribeiro, 
2000). It is important to recognize the unique nationality of Brazil and its separateness 
from Hispanic cultures and also from other Portuguese-speaking cultures which may not 
contain the richness of the intermingled traditions found in Brazil. It would be wise for 
schools and social services agencies to make a point to avoid equating Brazilian culture 
with Hispanic culture. Likewise it is important to remember that the Brazilian culture is 
not the same as Portuguese, Azorean, or Cape Verdean cultures, even though they may 
share a common language. Brazilians feel a sense of pride in their unique culture and 
nationality, and it is important that this culture be recognized. 

Need for English language development 

Second, these families, particularly the parents, were hampered by enormous 
barriers as a result of their inability or incomplete ability to speak, understand, read, and 
write English. This limited English proficiency became a part of a cycle which made it 



283 

difficult for the parents learn English quickly. It meant that the only jobs available to 
them were those that did not require English, that is, unskilled labor. Furthermore, these 
jobs offered little opportunity for them to learn or improve their English ability or even to 
practice the literate skills they held in their native language, for example Mario's skills as 
an accountant. Also, because these families worked long hours they had little time to 
study or take classes which could have improved their ability to speak English. 

In these families, also, there was clearly a problem for some parents who were 
unable to read English books to their children or to help their children with their 
homework. This limited English proficiency became a key factor which also prevented 
the parents from reading to their children and even from modeling their ovm reading for 
their children. 

Because of this, I believe that it should be a priority for schools to make English 
classes available for the parents of school age and preschool children. Schools need to 
form relationships which will support parents' efforts to improve the literacy 
development of their children. Parents need to feel that they are partners with teachers 
and schools in supporting their children's education and literacy development, and 
parental ability to read, write, speak, and understand English seems to be a key ingredient 
to this partnership. 

Books in the home 

A third finding in these families was the need for more books in the home, 
particularly Portuguese language books. Research supports the notion that literacy 
development in the native language is transferable to the second language once it is 
acquired. It is well documented that children who have a solid base of literacy in their 



284 

native language can easily use that as a base for further literacy development in the 
second language (Lessow-Hurley, 1990; Hudelson, 1987; Flores, et al., 1985). Therefore 
I believe that is important for schools and other social service agencies to make efforts to 
acquire native language books and make them available to immigrant families. This will 
enable them to more easily support their children's literacy development. 

While English books may be useful to these families in varying degrees 
depending on their and their children's ability to speak English, native language books 
are imperative. These parents expressed interest in reading to their children, but they had 
little access to Portuguese language books. To make the written word come alive for 
their children, to be able to read to their children with vitality and passion, they need to 
be reading in the language of their own identity and culture rather than under pressure to 
pronounce and explain the foreign words of another culture. Thus, I would suggest that 
the most effective parent-child story reading scenarios would occur with native language 
books. Furthermore the act of parents and children reading together would encourage a 
healthy parent-child relationship in addition to providing experience with print and 
stories. 

Social and emotional supports 

A fourth aspect of the lives of these children and families that was apparent was 
their isolation resulting from the separation from family members and extended family 
members prior to, during, or after immigration. The loneliness and longing for home and 
the difficulties in adjusting to the American culture can lead to problems for newly 
arrived immigrant families. These parents and children experienced the pain of loss of 
their families and friends in Brazil, rejection by Americans as a result of mistakes they 



285 

made due to misunderstanding of the American culture, rejection of the American culture 
by these families as a result of their misinterpretation of this culture, and the isolation of 
the children who spent a great deal of time alone. 

While parents were often physically present in the home, they frequently were not 
interacting with their children. Furthermore, these Brazilian children did not have access 
to American peers, except in school. These parents, who were puzzled by the practice of 
Americans arranging playdates for their children and fearing allowing their children to 
run off to play alone as was their custom in Brazil, did not know how to facilitate peer 
relationships with American children. Even if they did know how to organize this type of 
social activity and if they thought it would be a valuable experience for their children, 
some of them still could not have done this because they did not have the language ability 
in English to do so. Parents may also have been afraid that too much contact with 
Americans might have had a negative effect on their children. 

The pain, loneliness, and isolation experienced by members of these Brazilian 
families is also likely to affect their ability to learn English and to comfortably adapt to 
American culture in the long term. Emotional factors, such as anxiety, sadness, and fear, 
are strongly related to success in acculturation as well as attitudes and motivation to learn 
a new language (Stauble, 1980; Schumarm, 1978). Furthermore such emotional 
difficulties may be related to dysfunctional styles of adapting to the new culture. In 
ethnic flight children may structure their identities to align with the mainstream culture 
and reject their own culture, feeling disdain and shame in their cultural identity and 
ethnic roots (Suarez-Orozco and Suarez-Orozco, 2001). Children may also develop 
adversarial identities in which they reject the dominant culture and may retreat into gangs 



286 

or engage in other forms of rebellion against the mainstream culture (Suarez-Orozco and 
Suarez-Orozco, 2001). 

It would seem that a proactive stance on the part of social service professionals in 
helping to identify such affective and emotional issues early before they become a crisis, 
might support families in adjusting to their new life and deflect serious emotional 
problems before they develop. The idea of an Immigration Center where newly arrived 
immigrant families in a commuruty could go for information and assistance in finding 
housing, health care, English classes, child care, school, as well as advice regarding the 
laws and culture of the United States, all in the native language, might be a first line of 
assistance to families when they first arrive here. Simple information such as regulations 
regarding school attendance and immunizations, driving regulations and procedures to 
acquire a driver's license, and assistance in filling out job applications could give families 
a start in their adjustment. As seen by the families in this study, without accurate 
information about schools and social service agencies in the United States, rumors, 
misunderstandings, and ungrounded fears are inevitable. 

The needs for supports in these social areas have implications for schools, as well. 
Just as the Head Start program provided more than preschool opportunities for these 
families, schools need to address the obvious. Children of immigrants who come to 
school need more than academic instruction and instruction in English if they are to 
succeed in the U.S. school system. Their parents need the knowledge to support their 
learning at home. This means parents need opportunities to learn English. They may 
need help with child care arrangements so that children are not left to be cared for by 
older children who do not have the maturity to parent younger children or to scaffold 



287 

their learning. Parents often need information regarding health insurance and health care. 
They may even need help in balancing when a child is too sick to go to school and when 
a child has missed too much school because of lack of parental supervision, lack of 
understanding of the importance of school attendance, or because parents need the child 
to translate adult business dealings for them. Schools need to see their students as 
bringing their family life with them when they enter the doors, and they need to examine 
ways to connect with families for the sake of supporting the children's school successes. 
Schools, then, would be leaders in community education and in seeking methods to make 
life better for families in order for families to support their children's learning. 

Areas for Future Research 

This research was an extension of research in home literacy practices following 
similar ethnographic methods as those employed by other researchers (Teale, 1986; 
Purcell-Gates, 1996) studying the literacy practices of low income American families. It 
also provided an exploration of how the life-changing event of immigration might also 
affect the home literacy environment of these young children. 

Further research should focus on larger populations of Brazilian immigrant 
children, both in Head Start and those not in Head Start, to explore further how the 
unique experience of immigration might affect the development of the children as well as 
the literacy events in the homes. With a larger population researchers could explore 
questions that might provide insight into both the literacy practices and acculturation of 
families with a variety of immigration experiences. 



288 

Questions related to length of time in the United States, parental education, origin 
of birth of children need further exploration to see if there is a relation between any of 
these factors and the literacy environment of children. 

Studies which focus on placing an abundance of native language books in the 
home can be developed to explore the relationship of availability of native language print 
to literacy events in the home. Because story book reading has been identified as a 
significant influence on children's literacy development, it would be extremely important 
to see how the presence of native language books in the home might affect the amount 
and quality of parent-child storybook reading. Furthermore, since there are indications 
that social class and cultural differences are related to storybook practices (Heath, 1982, 
Heath and Thomas, 1984; Ninio, 1980), it would be important to see how storybook 
reading might then relate to the changing social class and cultures of these families. 
Descriptive and longitudinal research that documents the strategies that help families to 
overcome the emotional and social difficulties related to immigrating to the United States 
will provide a research base for developing support networks to facilitate with healthy 
acculturation and adaptation of these and other immigrants to the American culture. 

Studies which examine the relationships between school - family support systems 
to the academic success of immigrant children would provide new information regarding 
ways to promote academic success of these children. A study of the most effective 
methods to develop the involvement of immigrant parents in their children's education 
could provide a model of parental involvement. For example, what are some effective 
methods to encourage Brazilian immigrant parents in forming a PAC (parent advisory 
council) to the school? A qualitative study of parents developing such a PAC could 



289 

provide insights regarding cultural issues that may need to be overcome, as well as events 
most likely to attract parental participation. A longitudinal study of the academic 
progress of children of Brazilian or other immigrant parents actively involved in a PAC 
or in different types of PACs could provide information in developing effective models 
of such organizations for different cultural groups. 

Another area for fiature research is in the study of the loss of the ability to speak 
the first language. The language children speak in their early years of development is 
intricately connected to their identity. As young children learn and discover the world, 
themselves, and develop relationships with significant people in their lives it is in that 
first language. Why did the children in this study forget how to speak Portuguese as they 
went to school and learned to speak, read, and write in English? I suspect that this is 
related to their aborted literacy development in their first language. Sonia, who was older 
and more literate, when she learned English; remains literate in Portuguese today. 
Rafaela, who arrived in the U.S. at age 7, just as she was learning to read and write in 
Portuguese, continues to struggle with reading and writing in English; and she no longer 
has any ability to read and write in Portuguese. The focal children in this study all have 
learned to read and write in English and none of them know how to read and write in 
Portuguese. This is not only a tragic loss of their heritage and identity, but also a loss of 
a powerfial skill that they could use for learning and excelling in a second language. This 
loss of the native language needs to be examined so that we can have a better 
understanding of why it is lost, what advantages their might be in maintaining it, and 
what techniques and strategies may be employed to maintain the first language. One way 



290 

to do this might be through quaUtative studies of children who did not lose their native 
language, or their developing literacy in their native language when English was learned. 
Literacy development is a phenomenon that is embedded within the context of the 
lives of these children, indeed, the lives of the vast majority of children in our literate 
culture. Because of this contextual embeddedness it is important that we continue to 
examine the home environment as the cultural context in which young children of a 
variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds may develop literacy. It is clear that 
immigrant families of children of all ages are coming to the United States to live and to 
learn, and it is the responsibility of educators to make sure that no child is left out or left 
behind due to language or cultural differences. We need to continue our efforts through 
research to broaden our understanding of the cultural and linguistic influences, both at 
home and at school, that they may help the development of these and all immigrant 
children. 



291 

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Appendix A: Consent Form, English 

Head Start Research Scholar Language Development Project 
Description of the Project 

Greetings. My name is Sharon Switzer. 

I am taking part in the Head Start Research Scholar Language Development 
Project. The project is taking place at the Martha's Vineyard Community Services Head 
Start Program. The purpose of this project is to learn more about the language 
development of young children in non-English speaking homes. This will help the Head 
Start staff and others to learn more about patterns of learning in young children and how 
services can be improved for non-English speaking and other families with young 
children. 

The project will involve 10-12 home visits during the 1999-2000 school year 
and again during the 2000-2001 school year. During these visits I will quietly observe 
your child in his or her usual activities or play. During some of these visits I will have 
conversations with you that I will tape record, with your permission. 

The project will also involve your attending family sessions that will include 
learning activities for children, English as a Second Language instruction for parents, and 
parent and children time together. Four other families will also be included in this 
project. This will take place in Spring 2000. Each family will receive a stipend of $300 
in May 2000 and $300 in May 2001 in return for participating in this project. 

My Rights 

I understand that: 

1 . I may stop any home visit at any time or refuse it on a given date. 

2. That I may refuse to have any conversation tape recorded and that I may stop 
the tape recording of any conversation at any time. 

3. That I will be asked my permission before each time a conversation is taped. 

4. That I may listen to the tape recording, if I wish. 

5. That I may leave the project at any time, for any reason. 



329 



6. That I am guaranteed complete confidentiality for myself and my child 
regarding anything that is observed during the home visits or learned during 
the interviews. 

7. That my name and my children's names will not be used in any summary of 
results. Pseudonyms will be used and identifying information will be 
changed. 

8. That at the end of the project a summary of the results will be disseminated to 
the administrator of the Martha's Vineyard Community Services Head Start 
Program and that I may have a copy of this summary, if I wish. 

I am over 18 years old. I understand everything this consent form says. 



Signed: Date: 

PRINT YOUR NAME: 



Sharon Switzer, Project Coordinator: 
Date: 



330 



Appendix B: Consent Form, Portuguese 

Projeto de Pesquisa Head Start do Desenvolvimento da Linguagem Escolar 
Descricao do Projeto 

Ola. Meu nome e Sharon Switzer. 

Eu estou fazendo parte do Projeto de Pesquisa Head Start do Desenvolvimento da 
Linguagem Escolar. O projeto esta acontecendo no Programa Head Start de Servi9os 
Comunitarios de Martha's Vineyard. O proposito deste projeto e aprender a respeito do 
desenvolvimento da linguagem em crian9as pequenas que residem em casas onde nao se 
fala o ingles. Isto ajudara o pessoal que trabalha no Head Start e outros a aprenderem 
mais sobre as regras de aprendizagem em crianfas pequenas e como os servi90s podem 
ser melhorados para familias que nao falam ingles e outras familias com crian9as 
pequenas. 

O projeto envolvera de 10 a 12 visitas domiciliares durante o ano escolar de 1999- 
2000 e novamente durante o ano escolar de 2000-2001 . Durante essas visitas eu 
observarei sua crian9a silenciosamente em suas atividades normals ou brincadeiras. 
Durante algumas destas visitas eu terei conversas com voce, as quais eu gravarei, com a 
sua permissao. 

O projeto tambem envolvera a sua participa9ao em sessoes familiares que 
incluirao atividades de aprendizagem para as crian9as, aulas de ingles para os pais, e 
atividades para os pais e as crian9as participarem juntos. Quatro familias alem da sua 
participarao desse projeto. Isso acontecera na primavera do ano 2000. Cada familia 
recebera $300 em maio do ano 2000 e $300 em maio do ano 2001 como retribui9ao por 
participar desse projeto. 

Mens direitos como participante deste projeto. 

Eu entendo que: 

1 . Eu posso interromper qualquer visita a qualquer momento ou recusar uma 
visita numa data especifica. 

2. Eu posso recusar ter qualquer conversa gravada e posso interromper a 
grava9ao de qualquer conversa a qualquer momento. 



331 



3. Minha permissao sera pedida antes que qualquer conversa seja gravada. 

4. Eu posso escutar a gravafao, se eu assim desejar. 

5. Eu posso abandonar o projeto a qualquer momento, por qualquer motivo. 

6. E garantida completa confidencialidade para mim mesmo(a) e para minha 
crian9a com relafao a qualquer coisa que seja observada durante as visitas ou 
descoberta durante as entrevistas. 

7. O meu nome e os nomes de minhas crianfas nao serao usados em qualquer 
resume dos resultados. Pseudonimos serao usados e qualquer informa9ao 
identificadora sera mudada. 

8. No fim do projeto um resumo dos resultados sera entregue a(o) 
administrador(a) do Programa Head Start de Servi90S Comunitarios de 
Martha's Vineyard e eu posso ter uma copia desse resumo, se eu assim 
desejar. 

Eu tenho mais de 1 8 anos de idade. Eu entendo tudo que este formulario de 
consentimento diz.. 

Assinatura: Data: 



ESCREVA O SEU NOME COM LETRA DE FORMA: 



Sharon Switzer, Coordenadora do Projeto: 
Data: 



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